Gun control is one of those culture-wars issues on which liberals and conservatives often don't even seem to be speaking the same language, let alone coming to consensus. Gun owners - especially the hard-core enthusiasts who belong to the National Rifle Association - are often thought to oppose any restriction on their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Except that, according to a recent poll, they don't.
The gun-control debate is replete with suspect polls and fishy statistical analyses, so when Mayors Against Illegal Guns set out to survey gun owners, it knew it would be accused of putting a liberal slant on the questions. That's why the group, a coalition of 500 mayors started in 2006 by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, hired a conservative pollster to do the job: Frank Luntz, an occasional commentator on the Fox News Channel. Luntz surveyed 401 NRA members and 431 gun owners who don't belong to the group, and came up with some surprising results.
When asked whether they supported or opposed a "proposal requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks of the people buying guns," 69 percent of the NRA members and 85 percent of the nonmembers were in favor. This goes to the so-called gun-show loophole, which allows used-gun merchants to sell firearms without doing the background checks that are required when selling new guns. Attempts in Congress to close this loophole have died after meeting strong opposition from the NRA.
Gun owners also were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with this statement: "The federal government should not restrict the police's ability to access, use and share data that helps them enforce federal, state and local gun laws." This goes to the Tiahrt Amendments, provisions attached to federal spending bills that interfere with the ability of police agencies to use federal gun-trace data. The NRA is a big supporter of these amendments, but it's out of touch with its members; 69 percent of those polled agreed there should be no federal restrictions on trace data, as did 74 percent of gun owners as a whole.
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