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. jefnvk

    ""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"

    I tend to agree. The few questions I've seen released with survey results would have me answering in a manner that sounds solidly anti-gun, despite my political leanings being the opposite. Just because I think "assault weapons" should be more regulated than other weapons, does not mean anything unless "assault weapons" is clearly defined, as my definition only includes select-fire weapons.

    Likewise, I do support background checks, but in the form of the system that we have, and if it is expanded, I support it in a much different way than what is currently proposed.

    April 11, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  2. Ben

    When you believe that everybody else is wrong, you are either deluded, insane, or lying. Take your pick. THe polls didn't ask the wrong questions. THis bozo didn't like the results.

    April 11, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  3. Tom Richards

    Try polling with this question: Do you want the government to keep a list of everyone who meets with a counsler due to anxiety, depression, or stress?

    April 11, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  4. Mr. T. Bag

    Hokum is female santorum.

    Odd choice of words...

    April 11, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  5. Kingofthenet

    What the Gun Group Chief is saying is IF you ask a Strawman question like 'Do you support the Govt. right to confiscate your weapons' it won't be popular, never mind that is a Make-Believe Paranoid Fantasy.

    April 11, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  6. Fred Evil

    This is why most pollsters very carefully craft each question.
    The bottom line is most Americans are sick of the rampant irresponsibility of so many gun owners. Secure your weapons!!!!

    April 11, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  7. RV Doug

    I am sure he would say that all the people who die by gun violence every year are also Hokum. Compare gun deaths per 1000 citizens yearly with Australia, England or Canada. Rest my case.

    April 11, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  8. Maxbrady

    "At the core of his opposition was the potential for the federal government to keep a registry of gun owners, which he declared unconstitutional". So, if you want to live by the 2nd amendment, and have al the guns you want, fine. But it says nowhere that a law cannot be passed requiring the registration of all guns. That is not un-constitutional.

    April 11, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  9. mike

    Why do these nuts have such a hard time with facts. If you have one poll that says 51% believe something, I could see this argument. Where did it came from, who was polled, what questions we asked and is these questions manipulating the real numbers. But EVERY national poll show 85%-92% support, come on. Even 74% of NRA members support them. PLEASE stop this crap!!! My only problem with CNN (and other news outlets) is they give validity to these nuts by running this story. This guy runs a gun lobby that only has 300,000 members, THERE ARE 300,000,000 people in the US who cares what this guy thinks!!!!

    April 11, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  10. Duane Allen

    His denial, as well as that of GOA/NRA members, is abundantly apparent, rooted solely in his personal irrational beliefs and driven by his/their paranoia and that for some reason 250 Million guns in the U.S. isn't adequate. They twist the 2nd Amendment into their strained interpretation of a right to keep and bear arms despite the fact it nowhere states that gun ownership can't and shouldn't be controlled, the mere provision it states regarding "a well regulated militia" indicates the explicit expectation of controls on gun ownership. Further, the sitting SCOTUS has handed down an opinion that states specifically, and at some length and in pertinent detail, that the government can regulate gun ownership. Pratt and others like him who advocate their absurd ideas pose a danger to a free society. People who have nothing to hide, hide nothing.

    April 11, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  11. Steve - Texas

    NRA National Right to Arm Felons and Crazies... pathetic terrorist organization. Its not your father's NRA anymore.

    April 11, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  12. The REAL Truth...

    You cannot debate or compromise with zealots.. That's what the Taliban are, as are the NRA and GOA. Their members are a relatively small segment of the population (5M and 300k respectively). Their leaders ARE clowns, paid for by the industry lobby and gun manufacturers.

    As a gun owner (hunting) I see no need for semi-automatic weapons (or hand guns) on the street, except in authorized hands, like police and military. They have no other design than to kill.

    Their position on the 2AM is ludicrous and outdated. Proposed legislation will NOT infringing on anyone's right, the sky is not falling, Obama is NOT coming to take your guns away, and this country is too large for tyranny to EVER occur.
    Think about it.. too many folks who would be ordered to go collect those guns are gun owners themselves and will refuse to act. We'd have civil ware before that happens. We even have some classless Sheriff's who have refused to enforce any laws that may result from this, as they infringe upon their rights? REALLY?? SWORN to uphold the law, yet refuse to? FIRE them.. make an example.

    The Mental health deflection? Sure we have issues, but that is not the root issue either.. it's PROLIFERATION and ease of availability.

    As a gun owner, I have no problem with gun ownership, but many of us law-abiding citizens firmly believe that WLP and Larry Pratt need psychiatric care.. along with their respective governing boards, CERTIFIABLY so after seriously proposing that we put MORE GUNS into schools and arm teachers to protect our children ?????
    Does that mean we should take away their guns cus they're crazy?

    April 11, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  13. dandaman606

    Does Pratt realize he sounds like "Baghdad Bob?"

    April 11, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  14. Maxbrady

    If you want to live by what the 2nd says, fine, own all the guns you want. But it does not say anywhere that all of them should not be registered. So if you want to own a gun, you have to register it.

    April 11, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  15. Jack R.

    When is someone going to have the intestinal fortitude to ask this the die-hard gun rights advocates like this man (along with the NRA's Wayne LaPierre) the question asked at the McCarthy Arm hearnings of so long ago "At long last sir, have you no sense of decency, at long last?" This country sees 20 young children and 7 adults murdered in December and thousands killed every year with weapons and all this group can do is throw up that same tired red herring of a national gun registry and confiscation. The media need to remind this group each and every time that they throw out this tired old canard that NO ONE is mentioning confiscation. We are talking about a back ground check. That is it!!!!!

    April 11, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  16. just me

    Sounds like sour grapes to me. The NRA is about 1.5% of the country, and this group is about .0009% of the country. I respect everyones opinion even when I disagree with it. But that is funny how a small group wants to tell the vast majority what they think. i have never given much credit to polls even though they have a +/- 2 to 3% because the polls are often is target markets that are supposed to represent the whole of America. However even if you give them +/- 10% very few scienitic polls are off. So when polls are close, I discard them. But these are not even close.

    This guy needs to wake up and smell the latte. Because the whole he lives in is mostly fantasy land. The government is not out to get you. The country is divided ( and always has been) on most of the issues of the day. Yet we live in a democratic society, where to pass laws, concensus must be reached.... and that requires COMPROMISE. It has since the birth of this nation.

    Compromise is not a dirty word, it is how work gets done. This guys position is not horrible, although it is not understandable to some. IF he wants to do something positive for the country, the best thing to do would be to start by respecting others positions, and try to promote meaningful dialog. Get to where the core other the others belief is, and offer a solution that is respectful of that belief while addressing the issues that affect his own core belief. that is compromise. This is especially true when in a small minority position, as his consensus is not actually needed. But not needed does not mean not wanted.

    April 11, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  17. Chris

    If you ask a group of gun owners or gun associations if they favor universal background checks on gun sales, of COURSE the overwhelming response is going to be "NO". Idiots. If you poll your own members, of course the response is going to be HEAVILY skewed in your favor. But if you poll individuals not associated with any gun associations or gun owners you will get an entirely different answer. There are even gun owners in favor of the universal background checks.

    April 11, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  18. Steve

    The truth is most citizens want violence and violence with guns to go down. It is an emotional topic right know due to recent events, the media and politicians. Of course most Americans will say that want universal checks if asked because they have been lead to believe guns are bought without any checks and guns shows allow anyone to buy guns unchecked. Few people take the time to understand the issue and understand that unless it is a private party seller done face to face it requires a background check. Also currently if if convicted felon fails a background check they have broken the law and should be prosecuted. However that is not being done. Why do we need additional laws if we are unwilling to enforce the ones we have? Why are "assault weapons" weapons and "high capacity" magazines so dangerous that they have no place on our streets, but the vast majority of police carry them if they are only used for killing? Why are retired and off duty police allowed to carry them? If semi automatic rifles are used in such a minuscule amount of crime why are they being banned instead of pistols? If Adam Lanza spent so much time researching other mass murders and gathering information on what they did, why not restrict information on the internet, the news , etc? This would certainly save lives.

    April 11, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  19. Kevin in VA

    The media and the politicians have known this for decades. The results that you get from your poll depend DIRECTLY on how you word the question.

    April 11, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  20. MG

    No, he's wrong. The NRA is 5 million people. That's 0.8% of the population. Add in the Gun Owners group and that brings it up to 1%. That means a poll of all Americans that indicates 86% favor greater background checks is TOTALLY reasonable. Look at the key words, he said HE doesn't believe it. Of course HE doesn't. He BELIEVES ALL of us should THINK LIKE HIM. That's not what a poll concerns itself with. The question is simple, do you favor universal background checks? If the answer is yes, and it appears it is for 86% of Americans, then he can say whatever he likes he's wrong. And so are you if you agree with him.

    April 11, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  21. no gun guy

    Facts don't go your way, deny them
    It's the American way

    April 11, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  22. Be Sane

    They never like the polls, when they aren't favored. This country needs to get the gun lobbies out of our lives.
    Talk about manipulation.

    April 11, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  23. Mike Texoma

    Mr. Pratt exists for the purpose of producing a negative result on "gun control". Mr. Pratt does not care much if an elected representative loses his or her job because his constituents disagree.

    April 11, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  24. Alan

    I don't disagree with the subjective nature of polls but if the NRA gun lobby really wants the "facts" and really wants to face the national consensus on better weapons controls and safer schools, workplaces, and streets then let them stand up and support a national vote on the proposed gun control issues. The NRA does not speak for everyone in this country, and sadly neither do too many of our elected officials. Let the people be heard, and let the people make this decision.

    April 11, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  25. Marc

    OK, so, by the same token .. why is it NOT illegal for the government (federal and state) to keep a database of car owners and drivers licence holders, boat owners, motorcycle owners? Why is it NOT illegal for the government to require that drivers have insurance? The same for truck drivers .... home owners ....boat owners? Yet it IS illegal for a registry of weapons? It is my RIGHT to own and drive a car – but I have to get a license first .... and insurance!! And the fact that it is illegal to own a Tank or a Nuclear powered Submarine does not infringe on my right to own a car or a boat ... nor do I think it is the government's aim to put an outright ban on all vehicles ....

    April 11, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
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