Society

Poll Finds Americans Severely Overestimate Gun Control Laws

| by Dabney Bailey
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A new study by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has found that, for the most part, Americans are generally clueless about national gun control laws.

The DNC asked 800 voters whether they wanted the US government to “enforce current gun laws more strictly but not pass new laws” or “pass new gun laws in addition to enforcing current laws more strictly.” Half of those polled voted in favor of better enforcement, 43 percent opted for stronger laws, and the remaining seven percent didn’t weigh in.

A new bill that would require universal background checks on all gun sales might have a rocky path on its way to becoming a law, but based on this poll it has overwhelming public support. A whopping 87 percent of voters supported universal background checks; that number spiked to 90 percent among gun owners.

So, if so many Americans want stricter gun control, why are these gun control bills stalling out in Washington? The answer might lie in a somewhat unexpected statistic from the same poll. The DNC also found that Americans don’t have a strong grasp of current gun laws. Many Americans believe that gun laws are stricter than they actually are, requiring all gun sales to include background checks (some sales don’t), and banning high capacity magazines (they’re legal in many states).

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Many Americans also believe that it’s illegal to sell guns to people on the terrorist watch list. In fact, these sales are generally legal and the Government Accountability Office has reported that 247 people on the list passed background checks and purchased guns in 2010 alone.

The core problem with the gun control movement may not lie in mustering public support, but it rallying voters around the right information. If gun control advocates did a better job of informing the public that these restrictive laws aren’t actually on the books, then they might be able to whip up enough support to push one of these bills through Congress.

Perhaps the gun control movement could take a page out of their adversaries’ book. Gun rights advocates regularly argue that laws are already too restrictive, which may have led to this widespread misunderstanding. Gun control advocates may need to start a marketing campaign preaching the opposite – not that America needs stricter laws, but that existing laws are much more lenient than what voters expect.

Source: NY Times