Does gun lobby trump public opinion?
April 17th, 2013
11:45 AM ET
5 years ago

Does gun lobby trump public opinion?

Washington (CNN) - Even though polls indicate it's supported by the vast majority of Americans, the gun-control proposal with arguably the best chance of Senate passage may very well go down to defeat on Wednesday.

The Senate is scheduled to begin voting Wednesday afternoon on a number of proposals to reduce gun violence, including a bipartisan yet controversial agreement on expanding background checks proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania. Their proposal would extend current background checks for gun buyers to include gun shows and internet sales.

While Democratic leaders expressed optimism they'd get enough votes to pass the Manchin-Toomey amendment, a CNN tally of senators indicates the measure is probably in major trouble of passing, unless several undecided Democrats and Republicans - mostly from conservative states - throw their support behind the amendment.

Just about every national poll conducted since December's horrific shootings by a gunman at a Connecticut elementary school, which left 20 young students and 6 adults dead, has indicated widespread support for increased background checks. That includes a CNN/ORC International survey released last week that indicated 86% of the public supports some form of background checks that are not currently required by law for gun sales. And 86% of Americans questioned in an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday said they supported background checks for gun sales on the internet and at gun shows.

The two new polls were also in-line with past surveys by indicating no partisan divide on the question, with the vast majority of Democrats, independents, and even Republicans supporting increased background checks. The ABC/Washington Post survey also indicates that 86% of gun owning households support the proposal.

President Barack Obama's been a vocal advocate for passing gun control legislation, and he's touted public opinion as he pushes Congress to act.

"If our democracy's working the way it's supposed to, and 90% agree on something, in the wake of a tragedy, you would think this would not be a heavy lift," Obama said last week.

But the powerful National Rifle Association, the leading advocate on gun rights, fiercely opposes the Manchin-Toomey compromise. And that influential opposition is a counterweight to public opinion.

And the ABC/Washington Post poll also highlights that activism and engagement may be a factor in this political battle. About one in five gun owners questioned in the survey say they have at some point contacted a public official to express their views on gun control. That number drops by half for those in non-gun households. Nineteen percent of gun owners say they've contributed to an organization engaged in the gun control issue, with just 4% of non-gun owners saying the same thing.

Another factor may be public concerns that increased background checks would lead to a federal registry of gun owners and their firearms, which according to the CNN/ORC poll, is opposed by 55% of Americans. And two-thirds of those questioned in survey said that if the government did keep a list of gun owners, it would eventually use that list to take guns away from people who own them.

To allay such concerns, the Manchin-Toomey proposal includes language to bar the creation of such a federal registry. Manchin, Wednesday on the floor of the Senate, said attempts by gun control opponents to portray his bill as a universal background check measure were lies.

CNN Senior Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report

Filed under: Gun control
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. rs

    Let's see. 90-92% of Americans want expanded background checks (depending upon the poll), and the GOP is running a filibuster on the bill requiring a 60% rate of passage, and the NRA is threatening retailation against whoever supports the bill.
    I'd say it is pretty clear evidence that the GOP is in bed with the devil.

    April 17, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  2. GI Joe

    I have yet to meet a policeman that wants to open the door on a call and face an AK-47

    April 17, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  3. Really

    The answer to that question should be obvious

    April 17, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  4. ghostriter

    The registry....OK, how bout instead of a national registry, we have the states keep it. That way, it won't be used by the evil federal government, we would have a way to track weapons and everyone (except republicans) would be happy.

    April 17, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  5. Gurgyl

    Pass gun-ban laws. Period. It is a desperate need for USA.

    April 17, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  6. Angela

    This whole thing makes me sick. Washington ignores the wishes of the American people, but nothing comes of it. Instead they are puppets doing only what makes the lobbyist happy and are rewarded for it.

    April 17, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  7. much thunder..little rain

    polls are a snap shot in time...after bostoni am sure senators gun and citizenship views will be" envolving"....

    April 17, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  8. sonny chapman

    When a small minority can thwart the will of 90% then we no longer have a Democratic form of Govt. Isn't that what the Tea Partiers/Conspiratorists/Right Wing/ Gun Nuts have all been hollering about dressed in their American Flag outfits ?

    April 17, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. Boomer in Mo

    Of course the gun lobby will trump public opinion. They have a lot more money. By the way, I'm a gun owning Democrat and believe in second amendment rights. However, background checks don't cause me any heart burn at all. For years Missourians had to have a background check and wait five days to buy a handgun. Everyone seemed to have as many handguns as they wanted.

    April 17, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  10. mmad5camp

    The mantra is “Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people”. Well the same can be said about cars, “Cars don’t kill people, people who drive kill people”. Yet if we wish to own or purchase this possession, we are required by by state law to register and license them. We also must maintain insurance for these type of possession or be levied with fines, if we do not. Not so with a gun. If we buy a home, we must also register it, and again purchase insurance for this possession. If we must show responsibility for those things that will make our life easier? Why not guns? Since we will not get the background checks put into law by our scared representative. Why not initiate the insurance company to force the NRA to require all gun owners to purchase insurance that goes with their dangerous product? Maybe we are barking up the wrong tree with the background checks, just mandate insurance, that will provide some type of payment for the many victims of Gun violence.

    April 17, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  11. Name jr

    That is why we live in a constitutional republic. So the mob can't rule. Frustrating that a right cannot be taken away isn't it. But keep trying.

    April 17, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  12. 82nd ABN VET

    I am all about background checks, just not those that lead to a registry (no wiggle room at all for one).

    Registrys lead to yearly taxes and/or insurance policies. Think car registration and insurance.

    Those that balk at that, and say well maybe you should have to register and insure your guns..........

    I say, that things such as a car are not specifically protected under the Bill of Rights. Guns, however, are.

    If we are going to start registering all weapons and insuring them and being taxed on them each and every year like a car or house.................maybe we should include cell phones and your home computer or tablet. Fair is fair right? Lets restrict everyone's 1st Amendment rights like you would restrict my 2nd Amendment rights.

    Again. I am all for everyone needing a background check. I am not disputing that. I just want to make sure that there will never be a national or even state gun registry.

    The curent NICS system requires that all "RECORDS" be destroyed within 24hrs. Thats how is should stay.

    April 17, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  13. Pandamonius

    The fact that the NRA vehemently opposes background checks, which would impact criminals far more than it would law abiding citizens, is proof positive that they don't give a squat about the 2nd amendment. They only act to protect and increase the profit margins of their masters in the gun manufacturing industry

    April 17, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. Guest

    Still spouting bogus numbers rs?

    Anyway, the short answer is yes. Public opinion in and of itself does not dictate policy. The U.S. Constitution and bill of rights is not simply changed to meet public opinion. Thats said, I am fully aware that liberals dont understand what they're asking for when the result is infringing on our rights.

    April 17, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  15. luke,az

    The question should be " Does life trump guns ? " The nra is irrelevant.

    April 17, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. Guest

    Stand and Fight. Our freedoms are on the line whether you choose to see the facts or not!

    April 17, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "I say, that things such as a car are not specifically protected under the Bill of Rights. Guns, however, are."

    That changes absolutely nothing of the analysis. Gun ownership is subject to reasonable limitations according to 200+ years of SCOTUS precedent. If you don't like it, move to Somalia where the only gun control you have to worry about is whether all the armed people standing near you have control over their weapons and themselves.

    April 17, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  18. Mina

    "Does gun lobby trump public opinion?" Because the people who make up the gun lobby ARE CITIZENS of this country. We don't believe your polls. There are a lot more of us who oppose gun control than there are citizens that support it. The physical, in person rallies for both across the country alone tell the story. In Illinois we had 8,000 at the state capital in March in a sleet storm and freezing cold temps to to rally for 2nd amendment rights. Last week we had "almost" 150 at the state capital in nice warm spring weather to rally for gun control. That is just an example that has been repeated all across the country. THERE ARE MANY MORE CITIZENS AGAINST GUN CONTROL THAN ARE FOR IT. And even if there weren't this is not a democracy (majority rules). The US is a Constitutional Republic and what that means is the citizen's rights as laid out in the Constitution cannot be over-ruled even if the majority wishes it so. So sorry gun control advocates. This is a war you cannot win.

    April 17, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  19. 82nd ABN VET


    Please see my comment.

    Owning/driving a car is NOT SPECIFICALLY PROTECTED under the Bill of Rights. Neither is owning a house. Both of which require some combination of REGISTRATION, TAXES, and/or INSURANCE.

    But, then again, those are NOT covered in the Bill of Rights.

    April 17, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  20. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House

    It's plain as day to see that our politicians are brought and paid for by special interest. When the NRA can scare the beJesus out of our politicians to go against the will of WE, THE PEOPLE, then democracy has died and fascism has taken over.

    April 17, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  21. Pam from Iowa

    of course the gun lobby is controlling the vote!
    I don't have several million to slip a member of Congress under the table to vote my way!

    April 17, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  22. Rick 7809

    It isn't he gun lobby vs. public opinion it is money and votes vs. everything. The only thing that will stop the current NRA/GOP/TEA PARTY gun driven hysteria, is all of the "gun advocates" need to buy all the guns they can, or can't, afford and the money will not be in the manufacturing and sales anymore then the NRA money will dry up.

    April 17, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "There are a lot more of us who oppose gun control than there are citizens that support it. "

    No, there truly truly isn't. You are delusional and living in a comfortable fabrication that feeds your confirmation bias. These polls use appropriate methodology to randomly sample the public and then shove the raw data through appropriate statistical tests...rather simple ones in the grand scheme of things order to extrapolate to the public at large and test the reliability, variance and power of the result. They don't often produce results that 90% of the public support something. Yuo're simply wrong and sticking you fingers in yoru ears whle screaming "lalalalalalala."

    April 17, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. PJ

    I'm sick of hearing that "some" want to vote for these bills, but they are afraid of being "primaried". What that
    means is that "some" don't want to give up their high-paying, cushy jobs. They are all out for themselves-
    America be damned-but keep paying us for doing nothing anyway.

    April 17, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    "Owning/driving a car is NOT SPECIFICALLY PROTECTED under the Bill of Rights. Neither is owning a house. Both of which require some combination of REGISTRATION, TAXES, and/or INSURANCE."

    As an eminent domain attorney, I can tell you: Your ownership of your real property is most certainly protected under the Constitution. So is your ownership of your personal property. Both are subject to reasonable limitations and certain requirements for just compensation if, for example, your land is taken for a public project. It's no different with the 2nd Amendment, which does NOT confer an absolute right, but rather a right that is subject to reasonable limitations in its own ways. Background checks and registries would in no way constitute "unreasonable" matter how loudly, often or angrily you spout the comlpetely ridiculous slippery slope argument that a registry automatically results in all guns being confiscated from everyone.

    April 17, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
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