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New Poll Finds Strong Support For Enhanced Background Checks For Gun Sales

A new poll finds that the vast majority of Americans support a law that would bar people on the “No Fly” and Terrorist Watch lists from being able to legally purchase a gun:

More than half of registered voters support stricter gun laws in the United States, according to the latest results of a nationwide Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday that also found strong levels of support for background checks and for preventing people on government watch lists from purchasing guns.

Regardless of their opinions on specific proposals, 54 percent of registered voters surveyed said they would like tougher legislation when it comes to guns, the highest percentage of Americans expressing that view in the poll’s history. Another 42 percent said they opposed stricter gun laws in the U.S., while 4 percent declined to respond. Among the various cleavages in the data for that question, 51 percent of men said they opposed tougher measures, while 45 percent supported; in contrast, more than six in 10 women, or 63 percent to 33 percent, said they would like to see increased measures.

Asked if it is possible to have new gun laws that will not interfere with the rights of responsible gun owners, 64 percent overall said they thought that would be the case, while 28 percent said they would interfere. On the notion that the U.S. would be safer if more people carried guns, 52 percent said it would be less safe, while 40 percent said would be safer. More than half of those in a gun-owing household, 55 percent to 34 percent, said that more guns would make the country more secure.

Six in 10 voters between the ages of 18 and 35 expressed support, compared to 57 percent of those aged 35 to 49 and 54 percent for those 65 and older. Among voters between the ages of 50 and 64, there is a split of 48 percent each. Voters in households owning guns said they would oppose stricter laws, 56 percent to 39 percent, as did white men, 57 percent to 39 percent.

Support was more universal for requiring background checks of all gun buyers. More than nine in 10, 93 percent, said they supported that, while just 6 percent said they opposed, with similar levels of support across various demographic and ideological groups. About 62 percent of all voters said requiring background checks would be effective in reducing gun violence in the U.S., while 35 percent expressed doubt that they would.

As for whether they would support barring people on federal watch lists from buying guns, 86 percent said they would, while just 12 percent overall opposed the idea.

Nearly six in 10, or 59 percent, said they would support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, while 37 percent said they opposed such an idea. Voters were largely divided on how effective such a ban would be in preventing future gun violence, with 47 percent saying they believed it would and 49 percent who said they did not think so.

This poll comes in the wake of the Senate’s rejection of a set of enhancements to the nation’s gun control laws that included provisions that would have barred people on Federal watch lists, including the so-called no-fly list, from purchasing guns legally as well as news that the House of Representatives would take up its own version of an expanded gun control bill of some kind that would include provisions covering the watch list issue. If the bills that were introduced by Senate Republicans are any indication, it’s likely that whatever the House votes on will include provisions allowing people denied the ability to purchase a gun due to their presence on a Federal watch list to appeal that decision, and to challenge the basis for their presence on the list. As I’ve noted before, — see here and here — using either the “terrorist watch list” or the far more expansive “no-fly list” as a basis for denying someone a legal and Constitutional right raises significant civil liberties issues, and even a DHS official has argued against using such lists for anything other than their intended purpose. Because of this, the idea of using these lists to deny people a constitutionally protected right have been troublesome from the start, especially since there have been numerous instances of people with no connections to terrorism ending up on one of these lists while the parties who committed the three deadliest attacks since September 11th, 2001 in Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando, essentially flew completely under the radar of law enforcement and were never placed on any list whatsoever. Given that, it’s unclear exactly what this “No fly, no buy” proposal is accomplishing except, of course, scoring political points in an election year.

As for the polling, there’s nothing here that’s all that surprising. Public opinion has always been strongly supportive of expanded background checks, especially in the wake of a mass shooting incident such as the one in Orlando, and the polling has been similarly supportive when respondents are asked about including people from the watch lists from purchasing legal weapons. As we’ve seen before, though, gun control is generally a low priority issue for Americans so even when Congress fails to pass one of these measures there is rarely very much negative impact at the polls on Election Day. Voters may say they support these measures, but they obviously don’t consider them to be important enough to toss someone out of office over, at least not in comparison to other issues. As long as that’s the case, then Congress isn’t going to feel inclined to act on this issue.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. EddieInCA says:

    If I had a Super Pac, I’d be running this ad:

    NRA chooses Terrorist gun rights over the safety of the American people. Newtown, Aurora, Orlando, etc.

    We are the NRA: Terrorists’ favorite organization.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  2. Paul L. says:

    54 percent of registered voters surveyed said they would like tougher legislation when it comes to guns, the highest percentage of Americans expressing that view in the poll’s history. Another 42 percent said they opposed stricter gun laws in the U.S.,

    Wait a minute, Progressives claim that 90% of the American people support stricter gun laws in the U.S.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

  3. irondog says:

    I might be in the minority here, but I’m not crazy about the idea of limiting the rights of people who are solely on a watchlist and haven’t actually committed a crime. I’m disappointed that it’s actually the Democrats – who are usually tight with the ACLU – that are pushing legislation that limits the rights of citizens. It seems like the wrong solution to the problem…

    Creating thorough and consistent background checks for all gun purchases seems pretty reasonable to me, and so does banning assault weapons… but hey, maybe that’s just me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  4. Paul L. says:

    @EddieInCA:
    As opposed to
    American ‘s Due process rights should be decided with Secret lists adjudicated in Secret (FISA) courts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  5. grumpy realist says:

    I like the idea of linking the watch list to gun ownership, but mainly because I think that’s the only way we’re going to pry open the process by which one gets on the watch list. Too many people have been saying “Boo! Terrorism!” and using it as an excuse for sloppy list-making. As I’ve said earlier, this is exactly the same sort of process by which things get classified: no one has ever gotten fired or even gotten demoted for classifying something that shouldn’t be classified so there’s a tendency pushing towards classification. The benefits go to the person doing the classification (Yay, look how security-conscious I am!) while the downside gets shoved off on society (Oh, you can’t ride in a plane? Too bad so sad. Not my problem.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  6. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @irondog:

    actually committed a crime

    Just to be clear, are you suggesting that ONLY those who have “actually committed a crime” (and been convicted) should have firearm ‘rights’ limited?

    Creating thorough and consistent background checks for all gun purchases seems pretty reasonable to me…

    But not a through enough check to see if they are on a terrorist watch list or no-fly list?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. I think that the impulse is based on the assumption (an incorrect one) that people on a “terrorist watch list” deserve to be there and hence, deserve other restrictions.

    This is the same kind of logic, of a differing magnitude (and manifestation) that allows people to support torture, Guantanmo, drone strikes, etc: the assumption that only “bad guys” are punished, imprisoned, etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  8. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Paul L.: quoted from Q poll:

    American voters support 93 – 6 percent, including 92 – 8 percent among voters in gun households, “requiring background checks for all gun buyers.” Support is 90 percent or higher among every listed group.

    When asked the generic question, support for stricter gun laws (which may include assault weapons bans, magazine bans or ANY other legislation) then the support drops to 54%.

    Not inconcieveable that both things may be true.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. stonetools says:

    Well, Doug, this just shows that the majority of Americans can think rationally about guns.
    We just have to work to overcome the opposition from the minority of Americans who can’t think rationally about guns.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. stonetools says:

    @irondog:

    There problem here is that the gun nuts have blocked sensible gun safety legislation for so long that the Democrats in desperation are seizing on the wedge issue of opposition to terrorism in an effort just to get a fracking hearing on the issue. From the POV of civil libertarian purists, that’s awful, but that’s the politics of it. It’s either bringing in the terrorist watch lists, or continue with the status quo.
    Everyone thought when 20 children and 6 teachers were gunned down by a maniac with an AR 15, we would see action, but the gun nuts blocked even minimalist legislation.
    At this point, ID, liberals have got to use what we’ve got to get the discussion going. There’ll be time later to clean up the watch lists and add due process provisions. But we’ve got to get the discussion started first. That’s just how it is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. Jc says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I think of it more like credit. Your credit report may be bad for suspect reasons or for mistakes, but the vast majority of the time its because you have bad credit and are a credit risk due to your own actions you knowingly took. Sure there are other circumstances, and I am sorry for some of those, but in general, I can’t give you a loan. You want to get that loan, clean up your credit.

    Has anyone here been on a terror watch list, where are some testimonials? Deserve may have nothing to do with it. I would like to know what got you on there and you are not being killed by a drone, imprisoned without trial, you are simply being impeded from a purchase that you can make happen if you get off the list. If you want it that bad, then get off the list.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. grumpy realist says:

    @Jc: Except that there IS NO WAY to challenge your presence on that list.

    You can’t find out whether you’re on the list (until you show up at the airport)

    You can’t find out how you got put on the list

    You can’t challenge the process or evidence by which you got put on the list

    and finally:

    you can’t do anything to get off the list.

    That’s why we’re bitching so much.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yes, the “well, he wouldn’t have been arrested if he hadn’t been doing something wrong, would he?” attitude taken by clueless middle-class white-bread individuals.

    It’s amazing that these are quite often the same ones who froth at the mouth about how EEEVIL the gummint is. And how incompetent. But as soon as the issue is “arresting bad guys” it’s amazing how this magically morphs into The Government Can Do No Wrong, Ever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  14. steve s says:

    Sometime in the next 12 mos there will be 5 liberals on the supreme court. Something tells me that the NRA, which is really the gun manufacturer’s lobby, is not going to be happy when said liberals rediscover the first 13 words in the 2nd Amendment, which the NRA literally pretends doesn’t exist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  15. steve s says:

    It’s amazing that these are quite often the same ones who froth at the mouth about how EEEVIL the gummint is. And how incompetent. But as soon as the issue is “arresting bad guys” it’s amazing how this magically morphs into The Government Can Do No Wrong, Ever.

    same with the death penalty. The Big Evil Gummint can’t be trusted to put up a roadsign correctly. But when it wants to kill black people, it’s sacrosanct.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  16. Jc says:

    @grumpy realist: Not with that attitude you won’t :-) – You can get off, sure its not easy, but its been done.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  17. SKI says:

    @Jc:

    Has anyone here been on a terror watch list, where are some testimonials? Deserve may have nothing to do with it. I would like to know what got you on there and you are not being killed by a drone, imprisoned without trial, you are simply being impeded from a purchase that you can make happen if you get off the list. If you want it that bad, then get off the list.

    My father in law has an incredibly common name, Johnson. He was on the no-fly list because someone somewhere with a similar name had done something that raised suspicions – still don’t know what. Given that he, at the time, was a consultant who traveled a few times a year, it was a major issue. It took more than a year, and the involvement of his Congress-critters, to get off.

    You are presuming that there is a remotely rational reason why people end up on the list. Facts say otherwise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. Jc says:

    @SKI: I would say the majority of the time there is some rationale behind the decision. I acknowledge it is not a perfect system, as your Johnson false positive points out, but restricting firearms purchases via the no-fly list and/or the terror watch list just seems kinda common sense to me. Again, there are means to get off and challenge your presence on the list. It is not an end all scenario.

    “The Robert Johnson meant to be on the No Fly List would seem to be the known alias of a 62-year-old black man who was convicted of plotting to bomb a Hindu temple and a movie theatre in Toronto. After serving 12 years, he was deported to Trinidad.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  19. SKI says:

    @Jc:

    I would say the majority of the time there is some rationale behind the decision. I acknowledge it is not a perfect system, as your Johnson false positive points out, but restricting firearms purchases via the no-fly list and/or the terror watch list just seems kinda common sense to me. Again, there are means to get off and challenge your presence on the list. It is not an end all scenario.

    There are not means to get off or challenge your inclusion that provide due process today. Period.

    Requiring a year+ and the cooperation of Congress-critters to get off isn’t reasonable – and not in the ability of many people. Not having the ability to challenge the results directly or have a hearing before a fact-finder to decide is not reasonable.

    I’m not opposed to the concept (and the bills actually proposed are more nuanced than using the NFL) but you can’t use such a list without a very clear, well defined path to challenging inclusion. That doesn’t exist today – and isn’t adequately introduced in the proposed bills.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. One is supposed to have the presumption of innocence, and the NFL does not operate under that proposition, which is a fundamental flaw.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  21. stonetools says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Well, that’s not quite true. The Constitution requires the presumption of innocence at the TRIAL stage of the adjudication process. The Constitution allows the executive the right to investigate people and at least detain them in certain ways on less evidence than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
    I could see someone being placed on a terror watch list if the authorities had a reasonable suspicion that the person was about to engage in terrorist activity. It seems to me that the authorities should be required to notify the person that he made the list and he should be allowed a process to get off the list. I understand why the authorities don’t want that. If Mr. Terrorist gets a letter he’s on the watch list, he could disappear, only to reappear again when he’s blasting innocent civilians to Kingdom Come. Faced with that possibility, we’re not going to be very concerned if some business person has trouble traveling. I honestly don’t know where to draw the line here, but we should definitely start the discussion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. @stonetools: The problem is that if I can be put on a no travel list or any other kind of list without due process because my name happens to be the same (or just similar) to someone else’s, then this a major problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. EddieInCA says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I fly more in a month than most people do in a year. And I fly more in a year than most people do in a lifetime.

    There SHOULD be more people on the no fly list. Seriously. Less people should fly.

    Morons. Too many of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. @EddieInCA: If morons were barred from travel, the airline industry would collapse and then you’d have to drive 😉

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  25. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: There you go trying to make sense of thing again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @steve s: While he was on TV, Larry Elder used to say “I wouldn’t trust the government to run a popcorn stand.” And yet he was confident that it could run a nuclear arsenal, an army, a law enforcement system, a criminal justice system that executed people…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  27. EddieInCA says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You’re 100% correct.

    I’m one of the few that wishes we could go back to the days of airline regulation. It was a much better experience.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @SKI: @SKI:

    Given that he, at the time, was a consultant who traveled a few times a year, it was a major issue. It took more than a year….

    So do we understand you to say that for over a year he was unable to fly, obviously to the detriment of his business?

    Or, did he get provisional flying status, eg additional security checks until his name was “cleared”. – I’ve heard of that happening, but don’t know it for a fact.

    If the only similarity between your father and the “bad Johnson guy” was the last name, I would have thought that thousands of Johnson’s would have been refused entry to fly every day. It’s not too hard to imagine that there was some other identifier(s) that your father had in common with the “bad guy”.

    Maybe I’m wrong but I was under the impression that proposals for no-fly no buy was that the NFL list would be provided to the FBI NICS. NICS would advise a FFL to deny a firearm purchase. Appeal from a NICS denial is a well established process. People who are denied purchase improperly (due to identity mismatch, or incorrect records ) are burdened with having to wait to make their purchase until their appeal is processed.

    Apparently it’s the “wait” that causes so much heartburn for the 2nd amendment advocates.

    IMO, If a person is that impatient to buy their gun, that they can’t wait to be cleared —-then maybe they are just the kind of impatient person who should not have firearm at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  29. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    because my name happens to be the same (or just similar) to someone else’s, then this a major problem.

    Steven, I suggest that there’s more to it than a name match.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Rafer Janders says:

    @stonetools:

    The Constitution allows the executive the right to investigate people and at least detain them in certain ways on less evidence than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Well, again, not quite true. It still requires due process at each stage, even before trial. The government simply cannot, for example, wave a wand and say “everyone named Johnson can no longer fly” and have that go unchallenged, else it would rather rapidly make a mockery of all other constitutional protections. It could simply say, OK, no trial for you, we’ll just detain you on mere gut feeling alone, and there’s no violation because there was no trial. It doesn’t work that way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  31. Rafer Janders says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    Steven, I suggest that there’s more to it than a name match.

    How could you know? The process is classified.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  32. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Rafer Janders: As I said, just a suggestion that it takes more than a simple name match.

    As in the example above, if “Johnson” were the only criteria being used to deny boarding, then thousands of Johnsons would have been denied boarding.

    You are correct that I cannot know, however it is possible to deduce based on experience. If thousands of “Johnsons” were denied boarding, it is likely that would classify as Breaking News.

    BTW, There were about 6,400 U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents on the no-fly list as of last year, Terrorist Screening Center Director Christopher M. Piehota told a House committee. And Ted Kennedy was never denied boarding.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  33. Jc says:

    @Bob@Youngstown: that was the case. Just look up 60 minutes Robert Johnson no fly. They had 12 bob johnsons with issues. This was 10 years ago and I would hope the system has been improved, which I believe it has been due to so many false positives and problems from the earlier times and many people complaining, and ACLU etc…..the question still is if you are on a terror watch list should you be able to purchase a gun. I would say no, sure it will bring up challenges and lawsuits, but so be it, until those are ruled upon then don’t let those on terror watch lists purchase guns.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Jc: definitely agree with your conclusion as it applies to firearms purchases

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. bill says:

    condom after sex time again? note that none of these “mass shootings” would have been stopped by these kind of checks. crazy people who want to kill will find a way..
    the irony is that most killings are committed by people who couldn’t get a gun legally anyways…..but go ahead and pat yourselves on the back for achieving nothing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  36. grumpy realist says:

    @Jc: Spending over a year and needing to drag my congressman into it is by no means a “reasonable process.” You might as well say “well, we don’t have to worry about innocent people showing up on death row because they can always try to get a pardon from the POTUS.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  37. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @grumpy realist: Not quite the same thing (your death row analogy)
    I’ve been led to believe that most false positives at check-in are resolved with either additional security checks (wanding – close check of carry-on bags) or additional identification (DOB on gov’t issued driver’s license, etc).

    For all the hoopla about Edward Kennedy, as an example, he never was refused boarding.

    On a personal level, while I might consider it inconvenient to be subjected to additional security, I appreciate TSA (or airlines personnel) that they are doing just want I expect…. trying to be sure that a bad guy doesn’t get on my plane.

    So, no, I don’t think that the death row analogy is applicable. But I do understand that grumpy people tend to be…. well,… grumpy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. stonetools says:

    Here’s thing. In a system of:

    1.deep background checks that would include things like mental history referrals and domestic violence allegations
    2.28 day waiting periods
    3.A requirement that you pass a safety training course that includes a mental fitness component

    you would have much less of a need for terrorist watch lists, etc.But NRA refuses to even discuss anything like that, so the government is left with terrorist watch lists, etc.

    In the meantime, an ISIS recruiter said this :

    In the West, you’ve got a lot at your disposal. Let’s take America for example. America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?

    I’ve noticed gun rights folks become real quiet and thoughtful when confronted with this. Any government serious about combating “radical Islamic terrorism” has to defend against this express threat. The Bangladesh attack makes plain that terrorist’s preferred mode of attack is now powerful firearms, not bombs-in part because governments have become pretty good about denying terrorists access to combat grade explosives.
    So now you have to discuss gun safety laws as a means of fighting terrorism. That may not how gun rights folks might like it to be. But that’s how the world is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0