April 10th, 2013
05:42 PM ET
10 years ago

Gun rights activist dismisses polls

(CNN) – The chief of a powerful gun owners group said Wednesday he doesn't trust the methodology of polls showing an overwhelming number of Americans favoring universal background checks on gun sales.

"I'm not sure I believe any polls at this time. I don't think they know how to ask the right questions," Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer during a contentious interview on "The Situation Room." When Blitzer asked if that included Fox News' survey, Pratt said it did.

Nearly every national survey released over the past several months has shown a large percentage of Americans support increased background checks. The latest, a CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday, showed 86% of those questioned favoring some form of background checks that are not currently required by law for gun sales.

The CNN survey, along with the previous polls, found no real partisan divide, with very strong support for the checks from Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

Those figures, however, weren't enough to convince Pratt.

"Your polls are hokum," he said, explaining that polls of gun owners groups, like Gun Owners of America and the National Rifle Association, show only small support for increasing background checks. Gun Owners of America has 300,000 due-paying members, per its website, while the larger National Rifle Association has 5 million. Both reflect a small percentage when compared to the overall population.

"When you ask the people involved, maybe we have a reason to suspect how these polls are put together," Pratt said.

At the core of his opposition was the potential for the federal government to keep a registry of gun owners, which he declared unconstitutional.

"The background check is national gun registration," he said. "And all that's on the table right now is to make that more comprehensive gun registration scheme than we've already had."

Sen. Pat Toomey, the Pennsylvania Republican who played a key role in negotiating a deal on expanding background checks, will receive backlash from gun groups, Pratt argued.

"He ought to be held politically accountable, and the way to do that is in the primaries," he said, adding his group was "looking for a viable candidate."

Toomey is up for re-election in 2016.

Filed under: Gun control
soundoff (696 Responses)
  1. Scot

    Additional gun control measures are NOT the answer to the current rash of violent crimes we face in this country. Nancy Lanza legally purchased all her weapons after undergoing a thorough background check. Despite this the monster she raised was able to access those guns and commit the Sandy Hook Elementary School atrocity. The easy target for politicians is gun control, but the real issue is mental health care. Many families who are stuggling to get help for relatives with issues find little or no support within the state or federal governments. Why are politicians and the main stream media ignoring this underlying cause of acts of violence against innocent victims? Perhaps if Lanza had access to better mental health resources the Sandy Hook School tragedy may have never occurred. Rather than spending our time and efforts debating gun contol we should be addressing the cause. Guns alone do not kill people, mentally ill people with access to guns, knives, cars, etc. kill people.

    April 11, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  2. Anthony

    i can see they are taking the GOP approach to the POLLS, they are wrong all wrong. you will see on election day how wrong these polls are. then election day comes around, Wait! what? NO! this cant be! the polls were suppose to be wrong, it wasnt suppose to turn out like this! please dont turn Ohio blue just yet!.

    April 11, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  3. Cole

    What you are saying sir, is that when you poll the .097% of the population of the United States that belongs to the NRA only 5% supported stronger legislation on background checks. So of course it is unthinkable that polling the other 99.903% of the population that does not belong to the NRA would produce such drastically different results. #theworldrevolvesaroundme

    April 11, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  4. J Robinson

    The construction and administration of polls is based on scientifically derived standards developed over many years. The validation of polls is based on well established and universally recognized procedures, including how to construct question that will minimize biased results. All polls are not conducted according to these standards, such as "push polls" which are not really polls but attempts to manipulate public opinion. But objective polls such as Harris, for example, and others most often cited are unquestionably the best predictive tools for evaluating and studying public opinion.

    April 11, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  5. johnymac60

    I agree with him. Are pollsters now the speaking voice of America? Politicians don't have the pulse, but a random sample does? I'm not surprised that folks can point to some poll to support ANY political point they want to make. From any viewpoint. I'm surprised that anyone places any confidence in them.

    April 11, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  6. Mike

    I'm willing to bet the poll question was,"Do you favor background checks when purchasing firearms?" That right there can be twisted around to make it look like Americans who took the poll favor universal checks because for one, they didn't know that we already have a series of background check laws already in place. Or on the other hand they were naive enough to think that this was a straightforward question. Gun owners are indeed in favor a checks, just not when it comes to private sales and transfers(government monitoring this would be illegal) or a national gun registry, which history has shown us leads to confiscation. Call it paranoid, crazy, etc., but we have a huge problem with the government wanting to overstep their boundaries in the last eight years and mess with the Bill of Rights. No one agreed with the Patriot Act that was enacted by Bush, but everyone is okay with Obama doing the exact same thing and then some?

    April 11, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  7. Sniffit

    "lose sight of the fact that there are over 100 million gunowners and just a small percentage are members of a gun club."

    Nobody loses sight of that. FACT: the majority of those gun owners support better regulation of gun ownership and gun transactions and recognize the NRA's idiotic slippery slope arguments and demagoguery about widespread fascist confiscation programs to be the paranoid delusional fantsy-world ramblings that they are.

    THAT is why the NRA doesn't have 100M members and THAT is what the polls show about the majority of gun owners' beliefs on this issue. LEARN THIS: The VOLUME of your rantings about your beliefs is not indicative of how widespread or pervasive they are. The NRA is LOUD because their demagoguery is amplified by the MSM intentionally in order to create the appearance of there being two "equal" sides to the "controversy," all so that the idea that there actually is a "controversy" in the first place is strengthened and legitimized and can be more easily sensationalized. Reality: when polls are showing 90% of the public support something, THERE IS NO CONTROVERSY.

    April 11, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  8. Frank in Deerfield, IL.

    All the cable news stations, irrespective of political leanings, have prostituted all semblance of news with ongoing "rants" from idiots of all political persuasions.

    April 11, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  9. Andrew

    Clown calls polls hokum. Got it. Is this going to get funny soon?

    April 11, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  10. John

    It matters little. Jesus Himself could come out in favor of background checks and all that would happen is a downsive of Christian followers.

    April 11, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  11. Oh Puleeze

    And you can bet that if the polls favored the NRA's position, they'd be singing it from every mountain top! Funny how people only "believe" or "put creedence" in polls when they're on the winning side of the issue. The NRA know they're on the losing side of this gun control issue and that the tide has changed against them. Cry babies, all.

    April 11, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  12. Grahame Rhodes

    Preaching to the gun lobby choir again eh!

    April 11, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  13. pragmatic

    I agree with "TheLostSurveyor": Surveys rarely ask questions that I would have a clear answer to. Personally, I don't know anyone who favors more background checks, or any more gun laws, when we cannot statewide or nationally enforce the existing laws on the books. It all amounts to national registration and eventual confiscation. The NRA is right, add more security to our schools and on the streets.

    April 11, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  14. nu2okc

    It is an established fact that you can get the preferred answer that you want by asking the question a specific way. It has been said many times that they simply need to enforce what laws are on the books already. Any FFL dealer is not going to risk his business by selling a gun anyplace without doing a background check... go do a search on how to catch wild pigs and think about giving up your freedoms and when will YOU decide this is where they are headed. The government tried this in the late 1800's and when some people would not give up their guns all hell broke loose. Some obscur place called Wounded Knee. The govrnment was "acting" in their best interest to protect them...I doubt it.

    April 11, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  15. E

    They didn't believe the polls that said Romney would lose either. How did that turn out? Have you ever heard the phrase "a well organized militia"? It is in the 2nd Amendment that you love so much. Does our "everyone can have as many guns as they want" policy sound like a well organized militia to you?

    April 11, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  16. GRS62

    NRA: "It doesn't mater what the polls say, WE know what's best for America."

    April 11, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  17. TJ

    I have never been polled myself and don't know of anyone who has.

    April 11, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  18. LeeCMH

    Disagree with the poll – disbelieve it.

    Agree with the poll – tout it.

    April 11, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  19. Billy

    No Polls are sure when the caller can rig whomever he calls. Voting booths are more accurate only because everyone votes, unless of course these days they rig the programs.

    April 11, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  20. wrabbit99

    Why don't you go the extra mile and tell us what the poll questions were. Everybody knows that you can get whatever answer you want by changing the question.

    April 11, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  21. us_1776

    True to form.

    GOP/TEA 100% fact-free.


    April 11, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  22. Educated on the subject

    The problem here is that the media and anti-gunnies are not properly educated on this subject. EVERY SINGLE gun sold by a dealer, whether it is across the internet, at a gun show, or in their store, is required by law to conduct an NICS background check on the purchaser. There are NO exceptions. The only time guns can be sold without a background check is if you are purchasing a gun in person from a private seller...even some of these require a check, depending on state. The media is slanting this to make it look like the masses are buying firearms out of the back room of the store, and then disappearing into the darkness. Not happening...and if it is, and you know about it, notify the ATF, because it is illegal. What the majority of law abiding gun owners DO NOT want is a national registry of who owns what firearm. Just look what happened out east when the media released names and addresses of gun owners...And the only way for this "Universal Check" to work is to have a registry.

    April 11, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  23. Bressanvido

    "At the core of his opposition was the potential for the federal government to keep a registry of gun owners, which he declared unconstitutional."

    There's absolutely nothing in the Constitution that forbids gun registration. It says that we have a right to bear arms but nothing about gun registration.

    April 11, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  24. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Here's a solution for those hard line gun advocates across America. Since you don't give a crap whether guns end up in the hands of the mentally ill, dangerous ex-cons, and violent assailants, then have one of them murder a love one of yours, then come back and debate how you feel about it.

    April 11, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  25. Richard

    The world is changing. You will be left behind.

    April 11, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
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