Leading expert on gun violence statistics said Washington State ballot initiative was bought and paid by gun control lobbyists under false premises and empty promises.
Proponents of the initiative presented a false narrative that between 80 to 90 percent of Americans support expanded background checks, when the polls show differently, said economist John R. Lott Jr., Ph.D., who is the founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center. In the Nov. 4 election, just-under 60 percent of Washingtonians supported Initiative 594 which requires an expanded background check on firearm sales or transfers, unless specifically exempted.
“Washington voted 57 percent for the initiative which is obviously a high number, but not quite the 90 percent quoted,” said Lott. “It is remarkable, even with all the false information, they fell well short of their 90 percen claims.”
While the vast majority of Americans support background checks for gun purchasers, the polls show that the majority of them do not support new laws to expand background checks, he said. “Specific bills to expand the law do not have overwhelming support.”
CPRC, a scientific group that studies the relationship between laws regulating the ownership or use of guns, crime, and public safety, cites a Reason-Rupe poll conducted after the Manchin-Toomey bill, a similar measure that expands mandatory background checks, was defeated in the senate in April, 2013. It shows Americans, by a 62 to 33 percent margin, wanted Congress to move on to other issues and not try again to pass the bill.
Firearm sales and purchases are regulated by the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention act which mandate background checks for purchases and provides for licensing rules to sell firearms. Close to all gun purchases are transferred in that manner in accordance with federal law, said Lott. “Extended gun laws make people feel better, but it does harm by restricting law abiding citizens from protecting themselves.” It also costs the citizens more money, he said.
With the new law, Washington gun owners will absorb additional transaction costs from $60 to $80 per firearm transfer, he said. “Effectively it is a tax on people who want to defend themselves.”
In terms of spending on the state initiative, Lott said gun control proponents outspent gun supporters nationwide by a 50 to 1 margin. “With $9.5 million from billionaires such as Michael Bloomberg, the initiative’s supporters spent half as much as the National Rifle Association spent on all political campaigns and initiatives across the entire United States.”
There are a couple of major problems with these poll numbers, he said. “People were really just being asked about whether they wanted to keep criminals from getting guns, not about a particular piece of legislation; and the surveys asked a vague question with no information on how the current system works.” Other surveys indicate that support for actual bills that extend background checks is below 50 percent, he said.
“Loaning a gun to a friend, for example, that you know is trained and might need it for protection, is a crime,” he said. “Clearly you are at risk for going to jail even if the person is a law-abiding citizen with firearm training. No one is going to risk going to jail.”
He said the bottom line of these statistical claims is that it relies on old data, involves small group numbers, and presents vague questions that solicit very different answers than when asked specific questions.
Yet, despite a constant flow of inaccurate claims in a liberal state, the huge funding advantage and favorable media coverage, Lott said gun control advocates still could not render 90 percent support. “Maybe they will stop making that claim.”