Most Americans in a new poll support stricter gun regulations, with even a majority of National Rifle Association in the survey backing stiffer background checks.
Sixty-nine percent of NRA members expressed support for comprehensive background checks. A proposal to implement universal background checks would apply to all gun sales, rather than just purchases made at licensed retailers, according to the Giffords Law Center, a gun control advocacy group.
Support for such a measure increases to 78 percent among gun owners who don’t belong to the NRA and to 89 percent for respondents who don’t own a firearm. The poll of 803 American adults was conducted by Monmouth University from March 2-5, weeks after a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Comprehensive background checks are considerably more popular among gun owners than is a national firearms registry, a policy proposal often raised after mass shootings. Among those who don’t own guns, 79 percent support a firearms-purchase database, but only half of gun owners back such a proposal. The level of support drops to 31 percent among NRA members.
Although opinion polls indicate support for some gun control regulations, there’s been little movement at the federal level to pass new laws. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, has not proposed a timeline for consideration of firearms regulation; last week, Congress turned its attention to an unrelated banking measure.
Many of the changes to firearms policy are instead coming from the retail sector. Walmart Inc., Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc., Kroger Co. and L.L. Bean Inc. have all said they would stop selling firearms to 18- to 20-year-olds in the wake of the Florida shooting last month, in which a 19-year-old gunman was charged with killing 17 people. Orvis Co., an outdoor goods retailer, said it would sell firearms only to those under the age of 21 if they have completed a education and safety course. Dick’s also halted the sale of assault-style rifles.
Support for gun control measures is divided along party lines, but background checks drew broad support. The policy has the approval of 91 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of independents and 72 percent of Republicans. The partisan split over a firearms ownership database is more pronounced: Some 84 percent of Democrats favor such a measure, while only 45 percent of Republicans do.
NRA members, in particular, strongly opposed such a registry. Among members of the group, 79 percent expressed concern that a regulation such as increased background checks or a firearms purchase registry could be used to track the activities of Americans.
“There is still a stark political divide driven by special interests who represent about one-third of gun owners,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement. “The NRA’s influence in Washington may still be powerful enough to maintain the status quo on national gun policy.”