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Becky Bowers
By Becky Bowers January 23, 2013

Rep. Jackie Speier says poll shows NRA members believe all gun buyers face background checks

On the president’s list of gun-control priorities: require background checks for all gun sales.

That step has widespread support, even among gun owners, gun-control advocates say.

In fact, many assume such a measure is already in place, claimed Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat who is vice chair of a new congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

"Even members of the NRA, when they were polled recently, were under the impression that everyone has a criminal background check," she told Ed Schultz in a Jan. 15, 2013, appearance on MSNBC’s The Ed Show.

We wondered: Is that true?

We asked Speier’s office to point us to the poll.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Speier’s communications director, Jenny Werwa, told us the lawmaker based her comment on a July 2012 poll commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

As its name suggests, the group includes city mayors concerned with illegal guns and gun violence and is helmed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, a Democrat.

The group hired Republican pollster Frank Luntz. His organization, Luntz Global, polled 945 gun owners nationwide in May 2012, half of whom were gun owners who were "current or lapsed" members of the National Rifle Association and half of whom were non-NRA gun owners.

The poll showed that "gun owners’ knowledge of existing laws is tenuous," Luntz Global’s report says. "Over half (53 percent ) of non-NRA members and 57 percent of NRA members believe the statement, ‘Everyone who wants to buy a gun has to pass a background check to complete the purchase’ is true."

The reality is that background checks are required in sales by federally licensed gun dealers, but not for those by private sellers.

The White House wants to require criminal background checks for all gun sales. The National Rifle Association, which supports the current background check requirement, has suggested that an expansion of the law might be a step toward gun confiscation.

What the NRA says

We contacted NRA spokesmen to ask for their evaluation of Speier’s claim, but they didn’t respond.

We found an NRA response, however, to a similar poll by Mayors Against Illegal Guns conducted by Frank Luntz in 2009.

The Web post calls Bloomberg an "anti-gun politician-activist," and attacks Luntz, a widely quoted communications consultant for Republican politicians and Fortune 100 companies, with decade-old criticism from two polling organizations.

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In other words, the NRA attacked the source of the previous poll, not the results.

We looked for other polls to see if they exposed weakness in the poll’s conclusions.

We didn’t immediately find a survey that addressed gun owners’ knowledge of existing laws. But the Luntz poll also asked about support for "requiring a criminal background check of anyone purchasing a gun." The poll found that 82 percent of gun owners were in favor of required background checks, including 74 percent of NRA members.

Recent independent polls show similar numbers. A Pew Research Center poll from Jan. 9-13, 2013, of 1,502 adults found 85 percent of gun owners favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks — nearly identical to the Luntz poll. A CBS/New York Times poll conducted Jan. 11-15 among 1,110 adults showed that 85 percent of respondents living in a household with an NRA member support universal background checks.

Our ruling

Rep. Jackie Speier said, "even members of the NRA, when they were polled recently, were under the impression that everyone has a criminal background check."

She relied on a poll conducted last summer by an interest group that broke out results for "current or lapsed" NRA members. It showed a majority of those NRA gun owners believe "everyone who wants to buy a gun has to pass a background check." While we didn’t find recent polls asking a similar question, we did find other polls showing that NRA members support background checks for all, including private purchases and purchases at gun shows.

It should be clarified that the Luntz poll results were for current and former NRA members.

For that reason, we rate this claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

MSNBC, "The Ed Show for Wednesday, January 16th, 2013," Jan. 17, 2013

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Gun Control, accessed Jan. 22, 2013

Email interview with Jenny Werwa, communications director for Rep. Jackie Speier, D–Calif., Jan. 22, 2013

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Gun Owners Poll by Luntz Global, July 2012

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, "New Poll of NRA Members By Frank Luntz Shows Strong Support For Common-Sense Gun Laws, Exposing Significant Divide Between Rank-And-File Members And NRA Leadership," July 24, 2013

Center for American Progress, "RELEASE: Poll Shows NRA Members at Odds with NRA Leadership on Commonsense Gun Laws," July 24, 2012

National Journal, "Gun Owners, NRA Members Back Some Restrictions," July 24, 2012

Los Angeles Times, "Poll: Most gun owners support some gun controls," July 24, 2012

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, "Facts, Studies and Reports: Gun Owners Poll," July 2012

White House, "Now is the Time," Jan. 16, 2013

CBS News Polls, "9 in 10 back universal gun background checks," Jan. 17, 2013

Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, "In Gun Control Debate, Several Options Draw Majority Support," Jan. 14, 2013

National Rifle Association, "Update On Bogus 'Poll' Of NRA Members," Feb. 9, 2010

National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, "Gun Owners Enter the Fight of Our Lives," Nov. 21, 2012

National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, "Private Sales Restrictions and Gun Registration," Jan. 17, 2013

Luntz Global, About Frank Luntz, accessed Jan. 23, 2013

Washington Post, "Famous for 15 Minutes," Aug. 28, 2000

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