MILLER: Gun polling shifts, still way off target

Obama gun-grabber agenda losing steam

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Despite President Obama’s best efforts to exploit the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School for his political agenda, the public is starting to see through his maneuver. Polls show that the support for Mr. Obama’s gun-control wishlist is falling. Even so, the polls continue to be skewed in a way that gives the false impression of a higher approval than really exists.

A CNN poll conducted this month found a shift upward in Americans who believe there should be no restrictions on gun ownership. Immediately after the Newtown shooting in December, 13 percent said there should be no restrictions. That number has gone up to 17 percent by mid-March, which is the highest number since the CNN/USA Today polling started asking in 1993.


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On the flip side, those who want major restrictions on gun ownership fell from 37 percent in December to 31 percent now. The people called in this survey skew left with 33 percent Democrats, 25 percent Republicans and 43 percent independents.

A CBS News poll released Tuesday showed that support for stricter gun control laws had fallen from 57 percent in December to 47 percent in March. The shift came from those who believe gun control laws should be kept as they are, which increased from 30 percent to 39 percent. This poll favors gun-control advocates because it only asked adults, not registered voters.

That is relevant because only 26 percent of registered voters support stricter gun control laws, according to a Fox News poll released last week. The Fox survey only included registered voters, who were evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. When asked what one thing is most likely to reduce gun violence, the top response was “better parenting” which got 37 percent support.

The problem with all the polling on Second Amendment issues is that the surveys don’t give enough detail on terminology, so respondents are using their knowledge from the massive public relations battle waged by Mr. Obama and paid for by New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

For example, a recent ABC News/Washington Post Poll asked: “Would you support or oppose a law requiring a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons?” Fifty-seven percent said that they did.

However, I wonder how many people can define what is an “assault weapon”? I’d guess that most people would think it was a fully-automatic, military firearm, which is the actual definition of the term.


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It is unlikely many of those 57 percent would know the political definition of “assault weapons” — i.e. what Mr. Obama wants to ban — is a standard semi-automatic rifle that has one cosmetic characteristic such as a pistol grip or a folding stock. A more telling second question would ask respondents various specific definitions of “assault weapon.”

Another follow up question would go to weeding out the misconception that there are “assault weapons” on the streets. When the Senate Judiciary passed the assault weapon ban bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, this month, Mr. Obama released a statement commending the upper chamber for regulating “these weapons of war.” He went on to say that these rifles have “are designed for the battlefield, and they have no place on our streets, in our schools, or threatening our law enforcement officers.”

But according to Mrs. Feinstein herself, there are an average 35 people in the U.S. killed each year by rifles with these characteristics. Criminals use handguns because they are easy to conceal on the streets. I’ve not been able to find any law enforcement officers killed by rifles with those characteristics. So, a better poll would follow up by asking: How many people are killed each year by so-called assault weapons? I’d bet most respondents would guess thousands.

The ABC poll also asked: “Would you support or oppose a law requiring background checks on people buying guns at gun shows?” This question gets an astounding 91 percent support.

I’d suggest that this is because Mr. Obama gives the impression that this is a bigger public safety issues than it is. As he said in January, calling for a long list of gun restrictions, “It’s hard to enforce that [FBI background check] law when as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check. That’s not safe. That’s not smart.”

The president gets this number from a Justice Department study released in 1997 that showed that 40 percent of guns were transferred privately (the president rounds up from 38 percent.) Even assuming the respondents in the study told the truth to a government agency calling them at home, the number is misleading to cite. Of the 38 percent, 22 percent were received from a family member and 12 percent from a friend.

That leaves the remaining 4 percent buying at a gun show. A study by the Treasury Department showed that 75 percent of vendors at gun shows are federally licensed firearms dealers — meaning they run the FBI check at the time of sale. So that leaves one percent of private citizens who make an occasional sale of a firearm at a gun show.

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