Gun control activists in Ohio are touting a new poll in the Buckeye State showing massive support for background checks on all gun sales, but they’re ignoring the results of another poll question that demonstrates a flaw in the gun control argument. It’s a weak point that gun owners in Ohio and across the country should be exploiting.
First, let’s take a look at the supposed support for “requiring background checks for all gun buyers”, as the Quinnipiac Poll phrased the question.
The results of the Quinnipiac University poll appear to provide a boost to Ohioans for Gun Safety, a group which seeks to tighten background checks for gun buyers.
The Quinnipiac poll, released July 26, shows Ohio voters support background checks for all gun buyers, with 90 percent in favor and 8 percent opposed. The divide among gun owners was 87 percent in favor and 11 percent opposed.
Wow, that sure does look like massive support for a dramatic change to Ohio’s gun laws. And it would be a dramatic change to require background checks be performed on all private transfers of firearms, which is what gun control advocates are calling for. So that must mean roughly the same number of Ohioans believe the state’s gun laws need to be changed, right?
On another question, voters were more evenly divided. The survey showed 48 percent support stricter gun laws, with 46 percent opposed.
So, support for “stricter” gun laws is about half as popular as “requiring background checks for all gun owners”, even though in order to require those background checks, you’d have to put more gun control laws on the books. What gives?
It seems likely to me that the vast majority of poll respondents were thinking of retail sales of firearms when they were asked the first question. There’s already a federal law mandating background checks on retail sales, which would account for the broad support for “background checks on all gun sales” in the Quinnipiac survey. That’s why the support is so high for background checks, but dramatically lower for more gun control laws in general. The respondents simply don’t understand that there’s a contradiction in what they’re telling pollsters.
And to be fair, the pollsters and gun control groups aren’t telling Ohioans the whole story. As I mentioned earlier, “universal background checks” means a check not just on retail sales of firearms, but every transfer of a firearm, even most temporary transfers. Want to sell your old shotgun to the neighbor you’ve known for 20-years? That’s a crime unless you drive to a gun shop, pay the background check fee, and go through the NICS system. Need to borrow one of your friend’s deer rifles while yours is at the gunsmith getting repaired? That will also require a trip to a federally licensed firearms retailers that’s agreed to do background checks on private transfers. And once you’re ready to give the gun back, you’ll need to back to the gun store, pay the fee again, and do the whole process over to return the rifle to your friend.
Or how about this scenario; your wife’s best friend is scared out of her mind because she just broke up with her boyfriend and he’s now threatening to come over and hurt her. She’d really like to borrow one of your handguns for the evening, just to be safe, but the gun store’s closed and there’s no way that she could go through a background check until the morning. With “universal background checks” in place you won’t be able to legally ensure that she has a firearm for self-protection, at least not until regular business hours the following day.
“Universal background check” laws poll well because most people don’t understand what they are. When voters get a chance to actually cast a ballot in favor or against the proposed law, however, the numbers change. In Maine in 2016, a universal background check referendum went down to defeat 52-48, and a nearly identical referendum passed in Nevada by less than 1% of the vote, and the law was so badly flawed that it couldn’t even be enforced.
If Quinnipiac and other polling outfits are hoping to correctly gauge support for things like “Universal Background Checks”, they need to accurately explain the legislation to respondents. Otherwise, all they’re doing is helping to write press releases for gun control groups.