Polls don’t tell whole story on guns

Published 9:56 pm Thursday, August 15, 2019

To the editor:

Stephen Nash’s op-ed (“Time to speak: Gun owner, not gun freak,” Aug. 6) took several local Republicans to task for opposing Governor Northam’s gun control proposals during the July special session.

He says that most Virginians and most National Rifle Association members agree by wide majorities that we need “sane gun laws to outlaw assault weapons, silencers and bump stocks.” Nash specifically mentions the often repeated claim that most National Rifle Association members support “universal” background checks and uses a poll by Frank Luntz to support the claim.

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Polls do not fully describe what such proposals commonly include. If you ask a gun owner whether they support background checks for all gun purchases, the response would likely be yes, because most sales involve a background check. However, what anti-gun politicians include in such proposals goes far beyond the sale of firearms, and involves “transfers.” Transfers include such things as loaning your firearm to a partner, friend or neighbor, or even a trainer loaning a firearm to a person at the range as part of the class.

Here is what we do know. When universal background checks have been placed on the ballot where they can be fully explained by both sides, they receive far less support than they do in opinion polls. For instance, in Washington State, the law passed 59 percent to 41 percent; in Nevada, the initiative passed 50.4 to 49.6; and in Maine, it actually lost, with 52 percent voting against and 48 percent in favor.

I agree with Mr. Nash that gun owners support laws that will keep bad people from misusing guns, but rather than just “do something,” why not instead do something that works. None of Governor Northam’s gun control proposals would have stopped the most recent mass shootings.

David Adams

Vice President

Virginia Shooting Sports Association