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. ALLuh

    Why do these right wing religious zealots love assault rifles so much? Their other big hang up is vaginal control, weird.

    April 11, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  2. Brian from CO

    You would think that the right would be a little more leary about saying the polls are wrong after the 2012 election. "Romney will win is a landslide" – Dick Morris

    April 11, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  3. Dallasmarine

    Of course if the polls were in his favor, he would be crying and demanding everyone side with his opinion.

    April 11, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  4. larry

    When the feds come to take your guns, don't yell about your Rights under the Constitution, you liberals and some dumb
    so called conservatives have given them away.

    April 11, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  5. Jen T.

    What's the problem just do the background checks and lets get onto the next issue. I'll do a poll right now showing overwhelming number of Americans tired of this even being up for debate.

    It's so simple and we've so much more we need to do.

    April 11, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  6. William Demuth

    Let’s just ban private ownership if you aren't in a registered, insured, licensed and well-regulated militia.

    The rednecks want to be protected from the Feds, but the rest of us want to be protected from the rednecks.

    April 11, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  7. just me

    As for the polls, You can manipulate them in the way you ask questions, and structure the answers. During the last election cycle, I was polled about 6 times by right leaning organizations, about 3 from left leaning, and 4 by middle of the road organizations. How do I know... listen to the questions. When a poller ask you "As a REAL American, you would agree with the imediate repeal of the health care legislation the honable governor Mitt Romney proposes as common sense fixes to our govermenrt to restore this country to a country we can be prowd of, correct?

    Yes that was a real question loaded with partisan rhetoric, and it only got worst as the questions continued. My example is a right leaning one, but their were left leaning ones as well. Both produce flawed data. Niether presensent America as a whole. how ever most polling is NOT that slanted. So when respected polls are all showing about the same thing (80%+ support) its not the polls, its you.

    April 11, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  8. Mark

    I remember the GOP machine questioning all of the polls that had Romney losing most of the "swing" states. They were all influenced by the liberal New York Times, they were all biased, they didn't ask the right question, etc. In fact, every poll was spot on accurate, EXCEPT for the poll that showed Romney winning Florida with a slim lead.

    Polls work. Americans find it foolish that you have to go through a waiting period and background check at a gun store, but when the gun seller rents a table at a gun show, you can simply buy the gun and carry it out with no identification or check. Its foolish and dangerous.

    I hear gun nuts tell us that criminals don't buy guns legally. How do you know that? I can go to a gun show and buy all the guns I can afford with only my drivers license and no background check. Actually, they seldom even bother checking IDs... Criminal have drivers licenses.

    April 11, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  9. tonyl

    Karl Rove and Foxnews right wing fanatic pundits were also not ready to accept the polls showing Obama ahead of Romney. This is the same scenario.

    April 11, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  10. Dale

    Actually, I think they know exactly the kind of question to ask. The problem is that they are framing the question in such a way that people will overwhelmingly agree with them. Salesmanship has no place in polling.

    April 11, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  11. William House

    Nothing turns Democrats into specios liars more than the gun control issue.

    Democrats shoot themselves in the political foot with the gun culture war that does NOTHING to stop the gun violence due to the Bigoted Culture War on Drugs.

    If you want to do the most to stop gun violence, end the Bigoted Counter-Productive Drug War.

    If you want to do the most to help the Middle Class, Focus on the Economy.

    April 11, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  12. Norm

    I still haven't heard any kind of reason for not wanting background checks.
    Unless you have something to hide, what;s the issue?

    April 11, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  13. Paul Cooper

    Both of the polls listed in this story were conducted with just over 1000 people (1008 for Fox, 1017 for CNN) out of over 300,000,000. If that's to be the basis for new laws which directly contradict the Constitution, be prepared to lose some of the rights you actually cherish. Because 800-900 can be found who oppose pretty much anything.

    April 11, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  14. Youngblood

    Why wasnt the poll question stated in the article. In kind of weakens the argument against gun control, that one of the arguments was the question was not worded right. Is cnn articles coming down to this where noone has an argument because background checks are good. For all those gung ho Amuricans, stop bitching becuase if you dont have a criminal record it doesnt effect you. I do think that a psychological evaluation for anyone purchasing a gun.

    April 11, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  15. Beancounter

    "Your polls are hokum," he said, explaining that Mitt Romney was still going to win last November's election.

    April 11, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  16. Grettir

    I love how easily people are controlled by the media.... forget important issues like the economy and the massive debt that neither side of the aisle really wants to fix and our nations enemies growing bolder everyday... lets talk about moot points by blowing them totally out of proportion... such as gay marriage, gun rights and illegal immigration. no matter the outcome of any of these "crucial issues" things will stay the same... gay people will continue to do what they want, people will still be murdered (example, the mass stabbing just a few days ago) and immigrants will continue to pour into our country whether they are legal or not.

    so why are the politicians so irate over these insignificant issues? because they need something to distract the American people from the real issues such as the deficit that none of them seem willing to tackle. so good job everyone, you have taken the bait...

    another point, has anyone ever actually been polled by any of these agencies? I have never recieved a phone call nor any of my friends, families, professors or co-workers.

    April 11, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  17. surveys

    I've been surveyed by the NRA several times. It always begins with a 3 minute rant by LaPierre, ralling on some politician. Then they ask questions like this: Would you favor greater flexibility in owning and carrying guns or do you hate your mother?
    I always say yes to the "hate your mother" answer.
    Anyhow, if youwant hokum... there's a place to start.

    April 11, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  18. George

    Pratt is correct. Ask people vague questions like "Do you favor background checks for gun purchases?" And most people will say yes. Tell people the DETAILS like "Do you favor background checks if it means you have to pay $50 to check every potential customer that wants to buy a gun from you?" Then most people will say hell no to mandatory background checks.

    April 11, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  19. No support

    Maybe him and Karl Rove can appear on FOX together.. crying out that the polls are wrong!!! Demand a recount! Don't put a check mark in front of the american people picture, put it in front of the NRA picture!!!

    April 11, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  20. dnc

    They have never polled me or anyone I know.... Could lit be because I'm a registered Republican?......

    April 11, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. JK

    America has become the country of paranoia....They are coming to get us...LOL......

    April 11, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  22. hingedlwnb

    Larry Pratt: The Ugly American

    April 11, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  23. ChicagoAl2

    Driving a car is a privilege; to bear arms is a Right that 'shall not be infringed'. That was taught to me in my 3rd grade civics class.

    Also, the government does not mandate home owners insurance.

    April 11, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  24. MrCrabs

    "Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.'" – Mark Twain This applies to the media "'polls".

    April 11, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  25. noteasilyswayed

    It's time to let the bill go up for a vote and for us to find out how the politicians are going to vote on this; whether they want to vote with the overwhelming majority that can see right through the NRA's BS rhetoric, or continue to support the gun manufacturers.

    April 11, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
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