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After the Senate failed to advance an amendment that would expand federal requirements for background checks on gun purchasers, President Barack Obama took to the White House’s Rose Garden to denounce the vote, calling it "a pretty shameful day for Washington."
Flanked by relatives of some of the slain children from Newtown, Conn., and assassination survivor Gabby Giffords, Obama emphasized how broadly Americans support expanded background checks for gun purchases.
At several points in his remarks, Obama invoked his gun-policy adversary, the National Rifle Association. "To the wide majority of NRA households who supported this legislation, you need to let your leadership and lobbyists in Washington know they didn’t represent your views on this one," Obama said.
We found two independent polls have attempted to take the pulse of the NRA’s membership on universal background checks, the linchpin of both the failed compromise amendment sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa, and the underlying bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Here’s how the data stacks up.
• One poll was done by CBS News and the New York Times. The survey, conducted Jan. 11-15, 2013, found that 85 percent of those living in a household with an NRA member favored background checks for all potential gun buyers.
• The other survey, by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, was taken Feb. 13-18, 2013. It found that "people in NRA households overwhelmingly favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks: 74 percent favor this proposal while just 26 percent are opposed."
These results verify that rank-and-file NRA members and those who live with them favor universal background checks by margins of between 74 percent and 85 percent.
Still, there’s a problem with Obama’s phrasing. He said that a "wide majority of NRA households ... supported this legislation." While the percentages supporting universal background checks in the latter two polls qualify as a "wide majority" in our book, each of these polls were taken before either of the two relevant pieces of legislation were filed in the Senate. Reid’s underlying bill was submitted on March 21, while the Manchin-Toomey amendment was submitted on April 11.
So while the polls do demonstrate strong support for background checks -- a key element of both Senate measures -- it’s a bit of a stretch to say that NRA members polled supported "this legislation." The legislation in question hadn’t even been introduced yet.
Obama said a "wide majority of NRA households ... supported this legislation." Two fully independent polls showed that NRA members or households support expanded background checks, but the polls couldn’t have asked about the "legislation" Obama referred to because those measures had not been introduced yet. We rate the statement Mostly True.
White House, statement by the president in the Rose Garden, April 17, 2013
CBS News-New York Times poll, "Gun Policy: Universal Background Checks and Armed Guards," Jan. 11-15, 2013
Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, "Why Own a Gun? Protection Is Now Top Reason: Perspectives of Gun Owners, Non-Owners," March 12, 2013
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