Thursday, January 30, 2014

Three Polls Confirm That Oregonians Want Universal Gun Background Checks

At this moment, Oregon senators are considering a very important bill in the state of Oregon:  Senate Bill 1551.    Read the language of the draft bill HERE.  This bill, if passed, would extend background checks to every gun sale and transfer in the state of Oregon, except to immediate family.  

The bill is desperately needed.  Despite the lies of opponents, it does not create a gun registry or permanent record of gun purchases, and with an average of only 5 minutes for each background check, and four times the number of gun dealers in our state who can run the check than there are post offices, it is hardly a hardship for a law-abiding citizen to make a purchase.

As U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall pointed out in her guest post here at New Trajectory this week, "In Oregon, 2,378 gun sales were stopped in 2012 after buyers failed a background check" when purchasing from licensed dealers and at Oregon gun shows.  The vast majority, 80%, of those were denied to convicted felons.  But every one of those rejected gun buyers could very easily turn around and answer a private ad, go online, or meet someone in a parking lot, and buy a gun in a private sale with no background check at all.  As Ms. Marshall continued, "Nationwide, about 40 percent of guns are bought from private parties without a background check. Those seeking to avoid scrutiny can easily do so."

With the failure of our federal legislators to pass a universal background check requirement, despite the support of an astonishing 90% of Americans, including 75% of NRA members, we must instead act here, in Oregon, to pass a commonsense bill to protect our communities.

But don't just take my word for it.  Take the word of Oregonians.  In three separate polls, they showed support for such a bill in overwhelming numbers, mirroring national polls.

POLL #1:  The most recent poll came out this week, by Public Policy Polling.  As reported in the Statesman Journal:

The poll asked 710 voters in the Beaver State whether they supported or opposed requiring a criminal background check before a person could buy a firearm – 78 percent were in favor, 17 percent opposed and 4 percent of respondents weren’t sure.
Pollsters also asked whether respondents would be more or less likely to support a candidate who opposed expanding background checks for gun sales. They found that 50 percent of people said they would be less likely to support the candidate while 29 percent said more likely.
That's 78% for and 17% against.  A HUGE margin.  And if you don't vote for it, the constituents would be less likely to vote for you.

You can see the full language of the questions and all the answers HERE.  There were approximately equal percentages of gun owners and non-gun owners, Republicans, Democrats, and independents, and both genders.  

Pro-gun hardliners tried to dismiss the poll, saying it was worded in some leading manner (which they couldn't name), or that it was run by a liberal firm and therefore to be dismissed.  Or snidely dismissed polls altogether.  One pro-gun senator stated, "I can get poll results to say anything I want."  I urge him to try.  Not one single poll, anywhere in the country, has cast doubt on the widespread support for universal background checks for gun sales.  And they know it.  Pro-gun hardliners will do anything they can to keep it from reaching a vote, or even discussing the issue.

POLL #2:  In February of 2013, the Oregonian sponsored a statewide survey of gun issues.  As stated in their article on the poll:

The Jan. 29-31 survey of 504 Oregon adults was conducted by Elway Research Inc., of Seattle, an independent pollster. It carries a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points, plus or minus. ....
The poll found that 81 percent of Oregonians supported the more expansive background checks while only 16 percent were opposed.

That's 81% for and 16% against.  Another HUGE margin.

The full results and language of the questions can be found HERE.  Once again, the poll was fairly evenly divided between Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, gun owners and non-gun owners, and both genders.

POLL #3:  One month earlier, in January of 2013, KATU News of Portland sponsored another independent survey by SurveyUSA, of 500 adult Oregonians.  From an article by them:

When asked whether criminal background checks should be required for every person who wants to buy a new gun, 90 percent of people polled said they should be required. Seven percent said “no” and four percent were not sure.
That poll’s margin of error was +/- 2.7 percent.

That's 90% for and 7% against.  Yet another HUGE margin -- the biggest of all three polls. 

Full results and the language of the questions can be found HERE.  There were actually more gun owners (51%) than non-gun owners (41%).  Once again, the respondents were fairly evenly split between Republicans, Democrats, and independents, and both genders. 

With all three polls showing VAST support for universal gun background checks for all gun sales, one has to wonder who, exactly, the opponents are representing.  If a legislator votes against SB 1551, they would not be representing Oregon.

Statistics show states requiring a background check have lower rates of gun violence, including a 38 percent lower rate of domestic violence homicide with a firearm (2010 data from the FBI and the State of Florida), and a 49 percent lower rate of suicide with a firearm (2010 data from the Centers for Disease Control). In addition, after Missouri repealed universal background checks in 2007, the gun murder rate in the state rose 25 percent (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).  With statistics like this, the course is clear.

With gun crimes rampant in Oregon in the hands of criminals, it's time to do the right thing for the safety of our communities.  It's time to represent the people of Oregon and not just a small number of vocal hardliners.  We call on Oregon legislators to support SB 1551 and create a new trajectory for our state away from gun violence.

ADDENDUM (2/2/14):  An op-ed on the need for background checks in Oregon, written by Penny Okamoto, Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon. in the Statesman Journal.  From the article:
Data from numerous states attest that conducting a background check for every gun sale is an effective way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous individuals and to reduce gun violence. Closing the background check loophole will not eliminate gun violence in Oregon, but no one has claimed it would. It is a proposal that is overwhelmingly supported by people, including gun owners, and it is time for the Legislature to adopt it.