Washington Post: Making Gun Safety Politically Safe


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alohachris
December 10, 2009, 01:43 AM
I find this article troubling. Here's the "core idea": gun regulations and gun rights complement each other. Did anyone here participate in the survey they conducted?


Beyond the NRA's absolutism

By E.J. Dionne Jr. (ejdionne@washpost.com)
Thursday, December 10, 2009

When it comes to passing sensible gun laws, Congress typically offers Profiles in Cowardice.

The National Rifle Association wields power that would make an Afghan warlord jealous because the organization is thought to command legions of one-issue voters ready to punish any deviationism from the never-pass-any-new-gun-laws imperative. Many legislators fear that casting a vote for even a smidgen of restraint on weapons sales could be politically lethal.

But imagine if NRA members were more reasonable than the organization's leaders and supporters in Congress in understanding the urgency of keeping guns out of the wrong hands.

NRA leaders, meet your members.

It turns out that the people in the ranks actually are much wiser than their lobbyists. In a move that should revolutionize the gun debate, Mayors Against Illegal Guns decided to go over the heads of Beltway types and poll gun owners and NRA members directly.

The survey, which will be released soon, wasn't conducted by some liberal outfit but by Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster lately famous for providing talking points against the Democrats' health-care bills.

"I support the NRA," Luntz insists. What he doesn't go for is the "slippery slope argument" that casts any new gun law as the first step toward confiscation. "When the choice is between national security and terrorism versus no limits on owning guns," Luntz says, "I'm on the side of national security and fighting terrorism."

Most NRA members seem to agree.

In his survey of 832 gun owners, including 401 NRA members, Luntz found that 82 percent of NRA members supported "prohibiting people on the terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns." Sixty-nine percent favored "requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks of the people buying guns," and 78 percent backed "requiring gun owners to alert police if their guns are lost or stolen." Among gun owners who did not belong to the NRA, the numbers were even higher.

It's true that these gun owners, including NRA members, don't buy broader forms of gun control. For example, 59 percent of NRA members opposed "requiring every gun owner to register each gun he or she owns as part of a national gun registry," though I was surprised that 30 percent supported this.

And gun owners continue to worry that President Obama "will attempt to ban the sales of guns in the United States at some point while he is president." Asked about this, 44 percent of NRA members said Obama "definitely" would and 35 percent said he "probably" would.

Still, those surveyed stood behind the core idea that gun regulations and gun rights complement each other. The poll offered this statement: "We can do more to stop criminals from getting guns while also protecting the rights of citizens to freely own them." Among all gun owners and NRA members, 86 percent agreed.

NRA members also oppose the idea behind the so-called Tiahrt amendments passed by Congress. Named for Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), the rules prevent law enforcement officials from having full access to gun trace data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and require the FBI to destroy certain background-check records after just 24 hours. Talk about handcuffing the police.

The mayors' poll offered respondents this statement, antithetical to the Tiahrt rules: "The federal government should not restrict the police's ability to access, use, and share data that helps them enforce federal, state and local gun laws." Among NRA members, 69 percent agreed.

This survey should empower Congress to take at least some baby steps down the safe path the mayors' group is trying to blaze. They could start by overturning the Tiahrt rules and keeping guns from those on terrorism watch lists. "There are too many public officials taking an absolutist position when they don't have to," Luntz says. "And they're taking it not because they want to, but because they're scared into doing it."

Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee said in an interview that he and his colleagues are trying to send a clear message to gun owners: "If you have a gun you use for hunting or for self-defense in your home, I don't want your gun."

What he does want are tougher rules on purchases that might have kept six of his city's police officers from being shot with guns bought at the same gun store. A lot of gun owners get that.

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Kind of Blued
December 10, 2009, 02:34 AM
They either made up those statistics, used non-random sampling, or there are a bunch of really pathetic NRA members who don't "get it".

wgaynor
December 10, 2009, 03:39 AM
I'd like to see the polling data. Too many times, numbers are misinterpreted. Besides, the 832 gun owners polled does not represent a true sample of the population. They should use 10 times that many people from each state.

For example, 832 gun owners in Kentucky will be more to the right than 832 gun owners in california. Also, I wonder how many people declined to participate in this poll for various reasons.

I also wonder if this sample population was made up of the "I own a gun, but never shoot it population" versus the "I love my God, My Country, My family, and my gun" population (i think that is the right order).

Gungnir
December 10, 2009, 04:30 AM
I like this quote

When the choice is between national security and terrorism versus no limits on owning guns," Luntz says, "I'm on the side of national security and fighting terrorism."

If we had a fully armed population that knew how to use their weapons we would have national security, absolute national security, hell we'd make the Peoples Liberation Army look like small fry (3.5M active), vs. the 308M US population. We'd likely get rid of all this BS about guns killing people too, and how they just go off, your weapon will never just "go off", unlike your "gun" which can occasionally "go off" unexpectedly under certain circumstances :what:. More to the point both national security and gun ownership are mostly orthogonal, more guns doesn't improve or reduce national security, and less guns doesn't improve national security either, higher percentages of gun ownership may increase national security, or not I've not seen any statistical data that confirms or denies this, however the anecdotal data from Japan during WW2 indicates it was a factor that restrained the Japanese invading.

Here's another fantastic quote
In his survey of 832 gun owners, including 401 NRA members, Luntz found that 82 percent of NRA members supported "prohibiting people on the terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns."

So as far as I'm aware this is classified, so how many of those people asked are 100% absolutely positive that they're not on the list, if they were would this change their mind? You'll never find out until you're denied, since the terrorist watch list is defined by the FBI (who have been known to be wrong occasionally), and at the end of the day real terrorists don't go to their local gun store and buy an AK, they'll have them shipped from Hezbollah.

Here's another cracker
Sixty-nine percent favored "requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks of the people buying guns,"

When will people understand that a gun show sale is no different to a store sale for an FFL and no different to a face to face sale for a non-FFL? NICS checks are at minimum run at a Gun Show for FFL sales. If it's private (assuming that the gun show allows private sellers) then it's the same as a private sale. Last I heard NICS was the National Instant Criminal Background check.

This quote is quite accurate
Still, those surveyed stood behind the core idea that gun regulations and gun rights complement each other. The poll offered this statement: "We can do more to stop criminals from getting guns while also protecting the rights of citizens to freely own them." Among all gun owners and NRA members, 86 percent agreed.

I do also think we can do more to stop criminals getting guns, however I don't believe that the way to do that is by limitation of peoples rights to own them, or making the labyrinthine at times process any more difficult. However the question does not indicate that people believe in more gun regulation as a mechanism to prevent crime.

NRA members also oppose the idea behind the so-called Tiahrt amendments passed by Congress. Named for Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), the rules prevent law enforcement officials from having full access to gun trace data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and require the FBI to destroy certain background-check records after just 24 hours. Talk about handcuffing the police.

Did the WP even read the amendment? Did they give a copy to those interviewed? It's there to prevent release of confidential information to the public, not to the police or District Attorney when they are actively investigating a suspect. Here's a copy of the amendment

Provided further, That, beginning in fiscal year 2008 and thereafter, no funds appropriated under this or any other Act may be used to disclose part or all of the contents of the Firearms Trace System database maintained by the National Trace Center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or any information required to be kept by licensees pursuant to section 923(g) of title 18, United States Code, or required to be reported pursuant to paragraphs (3) and (7) of such section 923(g), except to (1) a Federal, State, local, tribal or foreign law enforcement agency, or a Federal, State, or local prosecutor, solely in connection with and for use in a criminal investigation or prosecution, or (2) a Federal agency for a national security or intelligence purpose; and all such data shall be immune from legal process, shall not be subject to subpoena or other discovery, shall be inadmissible in evidence, and shall not be used, relied on, or disclosed in any manner, nor shall testimony or other evidence be permitted based on the data, in a civil action in any State (including the District of Columbia) or Federal court or in an administrative proceeding other than a proceeding commenced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to enforce the provisions of chapter 44 of such title, or a review of such an action or proceeding; except that this proviso shall not be construed to prevent (a) the disclosure of statistical information concerning total production, importation, and exportation by each licensed importer (as defined in section 921(a)(9) of such title) and licensed manufacturer (as defined in section 921(a)(10) of such title), (b) the sharing or exchange of such information among and between Federal, State, local or foreign law enforcement agencies, Federal, State, or local prosecutors, and federal national security, intelligence, or counterterrorism officials, or (c) the publication of previously published annual statistical reports on products regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, including total production, importation, and exportation by each licensed importer (as so defined) and licensed manufacturer (as so defined), or statistical aggregate data regarding firearms traffickers and trafficking channels, or firearms misuse, felons, and trafficking investigations.

I don't see that as not releasing valid information for an ongoing investigation to law enforcement, I do see it as not releasing the information to local or state government who "just want to know".

Now

The mayors' poll offered respondents this statement, antithetical to the Tiahrt rules: "The federal government should not restrict the police's ability to access, use, and share data that helps them enforce federal, state and local gun laws." Among NRA members, 69 percent agreed.

This is factually incorrect, the Tiahrt amendment doesn't do this, however it does require that there is an ongoing investigation or prosecution and I presume that would mean a specific suspect or suspects first (no just because someone was shot with a 45 caliber bullet, you can't have everyone in the States name who owns a 45 caliber firearm), which is not unreasonable, otherwise it would mean that we're all suspects.

Overall this could be skewed quite easily by how they set the question, even ignoring the sampling mechanism that they used.

tkopp
December 10, 2009, 05:04 AM
Without getting into specifics since it's been a couple years since I took a stats class, 832 randomly sampled individuals is a little low but not as low as you'd think. Depending on the distribution of the sample it could be 95% reliable for a binary question.

Kind of Blued
December 10, 2009, 05:30 AM
Without getting into specifics since it's been a couple years since I took a stats class, 832 randomly sampled individuals is a little low but not as low as you'd think. Depending on the distribution of the sample it could be 95% reliable for a binary question.

Having a confidence level of 95% doesn't mean anything by itself. Without an ABSOLUTE sample of everybody, statistics will only get you so far as being able to say that you are 95% confident that the actual number lies between X and Y. With a larger sample the difference between X and Y shrinks, allowing you to be more accurate in your claims.

That said, I think the confidence interval from an 832 person sample, for a question like this, is likely large. Statistics aside, I still think the entire premise of this article is pathetic. ;)

SaxonPig
December 10, 2009, 09:47 AM
As soon as the words "sensible gun laws" come out of the speaker's mouth or writer's words you know you are dealing with a rabid anti-2A person.

His logic, as always is when defending curtails on 2A rights, is tortured at best and ludicrous at worst.

Blackbeard
December 10, 2009, 09:53 AM
There is most likely a sampling bias in this survey. Most gun owners who would oppose these "common sense" measures would also refuse to admit to a random caller that they own guns, and therefore were not included in the survey of "gun owners".

Old Fuff
December 10, 2009, 11:11 AM
Any poll can be slanted in the way questions are ask so that the results favor the position of whoever is paying the bill. Lets look at this one.

In his survey of 832 gun owners, including 401 NRA members, Luntz found that 82 percent of NRA members supported "prohibiting people on the terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns." Sixty-nine percent favored "requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks of the people buying guns," and 78 percent backed "requiring gun owners to alert police if their guns are lost or stolen." Among gun owners who did not belong to the NRA, the numbers were even higher.

Prohibiting people on the terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns.

It is a well known fact that many individuals - perhaps the majority - are not in fact terrorists. But the question begs another one, "Exactly how is this prohibition going to be enforced?" Do they really think that real terrorists won't find a way? Of course nothing in the poll went into this.

Requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks of the people buying guns.

I'm sure that the pollster didn't point out that ONLY FEDERALLY LICENSED DEALERS CAN MAKE BACKGROUND CHECKS! Individual (unlicensed) gun sellers cannot, and the purpose of the proposed law is to make all sales require an FFL broker - who would of course expect to be paid. Again, I'm sure this wasn't mentioned.

Requiring gun owners to alert police if their guns are lost or stolen.

This is a non-issue. People who are aware that their firearms have been stolen usually do report the theft to the police. The purpose of the question is to guide the person being polled into agreeing with the other questions as being "reasonable."

Both the Washington Post and the Mayors Against Illegal Guns (started and run by NYC mayor Bloomberg) are gun control advocates. Anything that comes from them is pure propaganda.

Phatty
December 10, 2009, 11:23 AM
wasn't conducted by some liberal outfit but by Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster
The WP tries to show that its poll isn't biased because the pollster is a Republican. But then, Luntz goes on to admit that he has an anti-gun viewpoint. Just because somebody is a Republican doesn't make them pro-gun. If they really wanted a valid poll, they could have gone to any number of reputable polling companies such as Rasmussen, Gallup, etc.

The problem with this poll, and a lot of polls in general, is that questions are thrown at responders in a rapid-fire fashion with little time for the responder to dwell on the question and give a reasoned response. So what happens is that people will give a knee-jerk response to certain questions which are specifically designed to produce just such a response. But if, for example, a specific piece of legislation is proposed and there is much discussion and debate within the gun-owners community so that everyone is educated on the pros and cons of the specific legislation, many gun owners would likely change their previous knee-jerk response to the polling question.

eye5600
December 10, 2009, 11:42 AM
Have you have ever noticed how most polls involve about 2000 respondents and are accurate to about "+/- 3%"? That's because 2000/3% is accepted as the best trade off between accuracy and cost. You would have to to 5000 or even 10000 respondents to get a meaningful improvement in accuracy.

It's a very biased piece.

Aran
December 10, 2009, 12:01 PM
Most NRA members I know are anti-freedom, pro-control fascists who wave their gun flag only when it comes to DEM HUNTIN RAHFLES.

jfh
December 10, 2009, 12:43 PM
1. The WP is notoriously anti-gun, and
2. ejdionne is one of their most politically-liberal opinion writers

Beyond that, there is simply the issue of sample size for being meaningful, not to mention the biases found in the pollster, poll questions, interview style and technique, and-on-an-on.

When you combine knowledge of such recent anti-gun activities--Bloombergs pseudo-sting operation, the Brady Bunch's new poster boy (a VT survivor), this poll, and other recent media thrusts (the CSU campus-carry policy change)--with the MSM publicity of the same, we can see the newest gun control thrust back into active politics taking shape.

The most significant victory they can come up with is to fragment the NRA.

Work with your fellow NRA members to prevent this from happening.

Jim H.

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