More data on gun control policies even NRA members support

February 23, 2013

[This will probably wrap up my week of ranting about guns…I prefer to take a break on the weekend, and try to enjoy life a little before diving back into the suffering and despair that is gun violence news and debate. Maybe I’ll take some pictures of cats.]

Although I find the fixation on the NRA irksome at times — as if the NRA membership is the measure of what should and should not be law in this country concerning guns — it is interesting to peruse data on the level of popular support various ideas enjoy. While the NRA is quick to run its own alleged polls, to issue blanket statements and to spew much bluster, behind the curtain of propaganda, they are weaker than they will ever let on.

And, as can be found in polling data about 31 different gun policies, it’s also interesting to see what separates Democrats from the hardcore gun enthusiasts in the NRA.


So, today I found this PBS article about what Democrats and the NRA have in common. This was research done by Johns Hopkins, or to be more precise the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I felt the need to investigate that name, as I expect anything with Bloomberg in it will immediately raise the hackles of most gun enthusiasts.

Originally named the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, the school was founded in 1916 by William H. Welch and John D. Rockefeller. The school was renamed the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on April 20, 2001 in honor of Michael Bloomberg (founder of the eponymous media company) for his financial support and commitment to the school and Johns Hopkins University. Bloomberg has donated a total of $1.1 billion to the school over a period of several decades.[9]

America’s most dangerous mayor! ACK!

Does this mean that Bloomberg has bought the university’s reputation and twisted it to serve his treacherous scheme of gun-grabbing? Well, sarcasm aside…no, not so much. More from the wiki article:

The Bloomberg School is the largest school of public health in the world, with 530 full-time and 620 part-time faculty, and 2,030 students from 84 countries.[19] It is home to over fifty Research Centers and Institutes with research ongoing in the U.S. and more than 90 countries worldwide.[20] The School ranks #1 in federal research support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), receiving nearly 25 percent of all funds distributed among the 40 U.S. schools of public health,[19] and has consistently been ranked #1 among schools of public health by U.S. News & World Report.[21]

All right then, so when someone questions Michael Bloomberg’s affiliation with the university, I think it can rightly be dismissed as shooting the messenger based on the university’s excellent reputation. On with the show.

We were surprised that NRA members had the widest variation in their support (or not) of policy types than any other group. This means NRA members showed a lot of distance (in terms of percent approval points) between what they liked best and what they didn’t. Women, on the other hand, liked just about every policy, and approved of them at similar amounts.

Interesting point. The NRA will latch onto whatever statistics they can find, to claim that they enjoy popular support among women. But the data from Johns Hopkins doesn’t suit the NRA fantasy; out of 31 different ideas for reducing gun violence, only four — the four least popular overall — fail to achieve majority support from the women polled for the survey. PBS presents the results in a handy interactive table, which can sort by column.It’s worth noting here that women have already been identified as a key demographic that could shift the 2014 election results away from the typical party in power loses scenario. So, in addition to saving lives through progressive gun policy change, we could also improve our chances next year.

The survey released by Women Donors Network, a self-described progressive “community of women philanthropists,” found that a subset of women voters who usually don’t vote in midterm elections are more likely to vote in 2014 on the issue of gun violence.That echoes what former Rep. Steve LaTourette (OH), now a militant moderate leader in the Republican Party, said on Tuesday when he cautioned his party against sticking too close to the National Rifle Association in the post-Newtown legislative push to reduce gun violence. If the GOP is seen as being in the pocket of the NRA, he said, it could cost the party big with women in future elections.

Poor Rep. LaTourette, he’s part of an endangered species! “Militant moderate” indeed. And to think, all we have to do is show the American people the truth, as the GOP is in the pocket of the NRA.

Anyway. What else has this Johns Hopkins study got to say? They asked Colleen Barry, the lead researcher.

“One surprise was that so many of these policies were supported by a majority of gun owners, and a second was that so many policies enjoyed support across political party affiliations,” Barry said.

Across the two parties, gun owners, non-gun owners, NRA members, all of them. It is impressive how many of these gun control policies enjoy widespread, bipartisan support. You wouldn’t know it from listening to Wayne LaPierre or John Boehner (perhaps not even Harry Reid). So from here on, I will be pulling percentages from that handy interactive table mentioned above. Check it out, it’s worth the time.Background checks, for example. “Requiring a background check system for all gun sales to make sure a purchaser is not legally prohibited from having a gun?” is the exact wording of their question. 74% of NRA members support this, and it just goes up from there. 86% of Republicans. 88% of independents. 92% of Democrats. All gun sales. No exceptions. And it enjoys the kind of approval even the President would like to have. I read this past week that he’s at 55%, a three-year high. I bet he’d like to score 74%. Well, seems like maybe supporting that universal background check may be one way to go.

So, out of the 31 policy ideas only four came in with less than majority support, overall. Worst case scenario, though, how’s the support from the NRA members look? This is where the surprise comes in. Thirteen different gun control policies on their list registered a majority of NRA members in support of them. From background checks, to requiring states to report more data and more funding to make it happen; banning guns for domestic violence convictions, or violating a restraining order, or for multiple alcohol or drug crimes; even taking away dealers’ licenses for record-keeping violations and ‘losing’ guns; and more still.

I can safely say from my interactions here that when the prospect of gun banning, prohibiting people from having guns, comes up, it’s generally considered as some kind of poison pill. Absolutely not, under no circumstances. But it seems even NRA members will support some reasonable prohibitions on gun ownership, accountability for gun dealers, and background checking and improving that system. Even if it means requiring that the states improve their reportage. The specific question was “Requiring states to report a person to the background check system who is prohibited from buying a gun due either to involuntary commitment to a hospital for psychiatric treatment or to being declared mentally incompetent by a court of law?” and it enjoyed the highest support among NRA members — 81% — for any of the 31 policy ideas. Overwhelming support for a federal mandate! Goodness gracious!

Hell, they’ll even support prohibiting people on the terror watch-list from having a gun (76% support from NRA members). Although it makes one wonder about the other 24%. What are they thinking? That they’ll be on it someday?

But enough about the NRA. Let’s talk Democrats. The Democrats polled for responses on these 31 gun control policies expressed support for 28 of them. Mind you, one of those three is a bit of a misnomer. “Allowing people who have lost the right to have a gun due to mental illness to have that right restored if they are determined not to be dangerous?” has a 32% approval rating. That’s about restoring gun rights. And nobody offers that majority support, including NRA members. Oh, but I said enough with them…what I want to focus on are where Democrats and the NRA dramatically differ, where we can safely say this is where we don’t agree with them, where the NRA’s opinions have the least sway in the Democratic party.

Sorting by Democratic percentages, one dramatic policy difference sticks out right away. Gun licensing. “Requiring a person to obtain a license from a local law enforcement agency before buying a gun to verify their identity and ensure that they are not legally prohibited from having a gun?” Democrats, 88%; NRA, 38%. Even Republicans support this idea at 69%, so folks opposing this are pretty much doing the bidding of the NRA and no one else.

I see another 40-point swing for background checks that take up to five business days to finish, but I’m not as concerned about that; even NRA members give that one 47% approval, it’s not that big a deal. Where I see an impressive difference is on assault weapons. You know, the issue that’s supposed to be DOA in Congress, that gun-cherishing Democrats like Harry Reid are so squeamish about supporting, because his pockets may be a bit stained with NRA blood money…

Only the NRA says these are worth keeping

“Banning the sale of military-style, semi-automatic assault weapons that are capable of shooting more than 10 rounds of ammunition without reloading?” 87% support from us. 52% from Republicans (a bare majority, but interesting). 15% from NRA members. 46% of gun owners are with us on this. This is not about gun owners. This is all about the NRA. And Democrats who vote this down — and I expect there will be quite a few — will hear from me about doing the NRA’s bidding. Of course, there’s more. Banning the sale of large-capacity magazines that hold more than 20 bullets. Banning the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. 83% support from Democrats for both of these. 20 and 19 from NRA members. Again, this is not a big deal for Republicans or gun owners; they show an even split, a bare majority of Republicans, just under from gun owners. Again, it’s all about the NRA. Even banning the possession of assault weapons, or of large-capacity magazines, provided that owners are paid fair market value for their weapons. 72% and 69% support from Democrats, respectively. Oh my flying spaghetti monster. Banning! Confiscation!

Only the NRA sees nothing wrong with this picture

Democrats support this. Americans overall support this. You might not know that, thanks to the impassioned denials and threats from gun enthusiasts, but this is not a threat or an anecdote or an obsolete argumentum ad Bill Clinton. It’s data, credible evidential support. And what the data shows is that many gun control proposals are much more popular than NRA mouthpieces or politicians either cowed into submission by them, or just in their pockets, will admit. It also shows which gun control policies enjoy widespread Democratic support, and extreme NRA opposition — showing how that opposition is right-wing fringe. It may not even be majority-Republican, it’s not Democratic, certainly not liberal.

Polling like this shows where we are strong and the opposition is split, and the NRA in particular is isolated and weak. Beyond that, I’ll be damned if I am going to give up on ideas that I support, that also enjoy broad support among Democrats. Especially on account of just the NRA against the rest of the country.


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