That’s the percentage of people in a new Quinnipiac University national poll who say they support “requiring background checks for all gun buyers.”
If you asked people whether water is wet, you might not get 97% of them to say that it is.
Democrats (99%), Republicans (97%), independents (98%), men (96%), women (98%), 18- to 34-year-olds (99%) and those 65+ (98%) all overwhelmingly support making a background check a requirement for anyone trying to purchase a gun.
And yet, attempts to provide legislative fixes to some of the issues with the background check system have run aground in years past.
The biggest failure came in 2013, following the murder of more than two dozen people, including schoolchildren, in late 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A bill that would have expanded background checks failed to gain the 60 votes required in the Senate. Ditto a bipartisan compromise bill offered by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania.
In 2017, following a shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, along with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, offered legislation that would force states to comply with regulations for updating the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It went nowhere.
That bill appears to have gained a second life over the weekend, with President Donald Trump seemingly signaling support for it – or something very like it.
If past is prologue, however, you would be right to be leery that last week’s shooting in Parkland, Florida – and even the outspoken calls to action from students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – will prompt significant action from Congress.
Which is, if you stop and think about it, totally baffling.
Politicians are in the business of getting re-elected every two or six years. One way to do that is to take actions that are broadly popular with the public. And you don’t get much more popular than 97% of people supporting something – like requiring background checks.
So why doesn’t anything get done? Because of the National Rifle Association’s striking success in selling the slippery slope argument. The NRA has convinced its members – and the many members of Congress the organization donates to – that allowing any sort of movement toward more gun control is an inevitable step to someone from the government coming along to collect your guns.
The Point: The all-or-nothing dynamic that has dominated gun politics for the past two-plus decades ill serves a public that clearly is able to differentiate between gun collection and requiring background checks. It’s a depressing reality of our politics.