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. Rembrant

    ""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..."
    But YOU, Mr. Pratt know how to ask the right questions, don't you? Dozens of polls, and nobody knows what they are doing but you. Being the executive director at Gun Owners of America I doubt you have any bias or special interests in mind, either.
    For the polls: I am a gun owner and do not mind background checks, magazine limits, etc. These limits are not enough inconvenience to justify deaths of innocent people by some whacko.

    April 10, 2013 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  2. Dizzyd

    'I don't believe the polls 'cuz they don't say what I want 'em to say.' And they wonder why the thought of them having guns scares people.

    April 10, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  3. John in NM

    I believe the polls are hokum too. I'd like to see details about how the polls were conducted.

    April 10, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  4. akgar

    How about mental health evaluation for Pratt & LaPiarre

    April 10, 2013 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  5. desiderada

    What's the need of buying polls when you can buy Congressmen?

    April 10, 2013 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  6. John in NM

    Oh, and by the way, I didn't realize that Larry Pratt was the executive director of Gun Owners of America. I just joined. Thanks CNN!

    April 10, 2013 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  7. desiderada

    What is the point of buying these polls when you can buy congressmen?

    April 10, 2013 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  8. Doctor Wesley Robert

    Not picking sides, however I just wanted to mention that no one takes mainstream media polls seriously. Not anymore.

    April 10, 2013 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  9. HenryB

    Look at that face. Wonder what a poll would say about that mug.

    April 10, 2013 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  10. Nick

    Great job Larry Pratt. Keep up the good work. Personally, even though these people like Pratt may be in it for profit, I'm just glad they defended the 2nd amendment by defeating that idiotic assault weapons ban. I'm on the fence about background checks though.

    April 10, 2013 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  11. sadlyperturbed

    It seems that it is easier to call Americans liars than it is to accept that the vast majority of Americans understand the need for background checks for all gun purchases. Of course he would rather believe the members of guns rights groups as they are on the same page as he is in his thinking. But Americans in general are not. And they have clearly said they want more background checks. I think this country has gone stupid and we are watching it all.

    April 10, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  12. Janet

    Doesn't he sound like the Republicans from last Fall who didn't believe the election polls which favored Pres. Obama? I guess if you don't like what the polls are saying, you just discount them.

    April 10, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  13. PJ

    "He ought to be held accountable politically and the way to do that is in the primaries." His group is "looking for a
    viable candidate".
    Borrowing from the Tea Party. Both scream about their "freedoms" and both threaten anybody that disagrees
    with them by finding "other candidates".
    To them, freedom means our way or no way, but they are truly fools in every way.
    Does this joker have as many "body guards" as La Pierre?

    April 10, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  14. Shan

    Why don't they just let the people vote..

    April 10, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  15. EVN

    Reason and logic are irrelevant to zealots. With all the gun nuts out there wouldn't it be sweet poetic justice if they opened fire on the anti-gun control advocates who will do anything to deny what the majority of people want? Should that ever happen, in one fell swoop we'll get rid of some serious obstacles to an end to the killing (or at least a slowing down of it) and debunk the "having a gun prevents crime" myth. Now come out of your corners and flame me.

    April 10, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  16. coffeedad

    First of all, a poll (even if it is done responsibly) DOES NOT equal the entire population. It is a "sampling" of the population.

    Second, CNN is SO known for having their own agenda on everything they say that any poll that they conduct is not only going to be worded to enlist favorable responses, but is also certain to be demographically specific to their desired result.

    The idea that 90% of Americans favor universal background checks is completely absurd. Not even after Pearl Harbor did 90% of Americans agree with entering WWII.

    90% of Americans agree on NOTHING.

    April 10, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  17. Jeremy

    Can we please just lock these nuts up once and for all?

    April 10, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  18. Evergreen

    I am sure he did not believe the polls that showed Romney was losing. Please, get a grip...

    April 10, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "The chief of a power gun owners group said Wednesday he doesn't trust the methodology of polls showing...."

    ...that reality is different that what he'd rather it be.


    There's your lede.

    April 10, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  20. Frank

    I like Larry Pratt. Class act.

    Well lets see. It took 650,000 employees and 14 billion dollars 6+months to to complete the census and CNN just polled America in a week to find out their stance on gun control! LOL! They must have on hell of a budget to pull that off!

    April 10, 2013 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  21. tom

    Sorry to hear that reality is so inconvenient for him.

    April 10, 2013 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  22. Adam

    Where does it say in the constitution that the Federal Government or the States can't put in place a gun registry. The constution only says that the goverment can't keep you from owning a gun, it says nothing regarding registry guns with authorities. Whether my gun is registered in a database means nothing in my ability to own and operate that weapon. It would only help to keep guns in the hands of law biding citzens. All unregistred guns would be confiscated and destroyed and we would only be left with legal guns that are registered to someone who is legal. This would definantly help with the proliferation of guns in this country.

    April 10, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  23. Nick

    I'm not sure what is worse: the fact that Pratt is using "the polls are wrong" as an argument just months after Romney's aides said the same thing, or the fact that Pratt is implying that his group would use their money to buy a candidate that supports their position regardless of the views of the constituents. And making the claim that background checks infringe on the constitution is quite a stretch.

    April 10, 2013 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  24. Mike

    Well, of course the polls' questions are flawed. It's right there in the conclusion: "some form of background checks." Which means nothing to present debates, except that we're unlikely to remove the background checks already in place. Also, some expansions proposed (commercial settings/gun shows and internet purchases) are either minimal or redundant. So obviously few people take issue. More, even for universal checks, the implementation chosen makes a huge difference for gun rights advocates (and should for everyone). The question is whether the polling bodies don't understand their own methods or they are doing this intentionally. Not sure which is better....

    April 10, 2013 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  25. Randy

    "The polls are wrong" Where have we heard this before?

    It's funny, I was a place last week getting my oil changed and there was a gun magazine there so I sat & read it while I waited. Some of these people seriously live an an alternate universe, where there is a criminal behind every bush and the jack booted thugs from the government may come at any moment to seize their AR-15s. There is a mind set that is so paranoid, so distrustful, that I think if anything, these are the LAST people on earth that need to be armed to the teeth.

    April 10, 2013 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
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