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Becky Bowers
By Becky Bowers July 8, 2013

Gabrielle Giffords says N.H. Republicans, gun owners support background checks

Gabrielle Giffords, the former Democratic congresswoman who was shot in her home district in Arizona, contends expanded background checks continue to be popular — even among Republicans and gun owners.

Her advocacy group is now targeting states with senators who voted against a compromise bill in April that would have mandated background checks for all private gun sales, with exceptions.

Giffords kicked off a seven-state tour the week of Independence Day with a USA Today op-ed arguing, "there don't have to be winners and losers."

There’s support for a "simple, fair solution: background checks for all potential gun buyers," she wrote in the piece, published July 1, 2013.

"Expanded background checks continue to be popular with significant majorities, even in states with high percentages of gun owners and across all party affiliations.

"For example, in New Hampshire, 93 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of gun owners and 60 percent of NRA households support background checks."

The New Hampshire numbers caught our eye. Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte saw her poll numbers drop after she voted against the Senate proposal, and a sympathetic PAC launched an ad in her defense. Do Ayotte’s constituents support expanded background checks?

What the polls say

Giffords’ op-ed relies on polling conducted on behalf of her advocacy group, Americans for Responsible Solutions.

The question: "Do you favor or oppose requiring background checks on all gun sales including those sold on the Internet and at gun shows?"

Registered voters in New Hampshire who participated in the poll, done May 21-23, 2013, by progressive polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, answered the way Giffords described.

Our general policy is to give some credence to polls paid for by an organization affiliated with the individual or group making the claim, but also to look for confirmation with polls taken independently of the organization.

No recent New Hampshire poll we found broke out respondents in all of those categories: by party, gun ownership and "NRA households."

(We’ll note, too, that the GQRR poll memo didn’t define the NRA group. In previous fact-checks we learned similar phrases may include current and former NRA members.)

But a smattering of polls from this year generally back up pieces of her claim.






Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research

May 21-23, 2013

"Do you favor or oppose requiring background checks on all gun sales including those sold on the Internet and at gun shows?"

• 84% (N.H.)

• 93% (N.H. Dems)

• 79% (N.H. GOP)

• 82% (N.H. gun owners)

• 60% (N.H. NRA households)

Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College

Featured Fact-check

April 22-25, 2013

Poll respondents were asked if they supported or opposed universal background checks for the purchase of firearms in New Hampshire.

• 76% (N.H.)

• 88% (N.H. Dems)

• 63% (N.H. GOP)

Public Policy Polling

April 19-21, 2013

"Would you support or oppose requiring background checks on individuals who purchase guns at gun shows?"

• 75% (N.H.)

• 95% (N.H. Dems)

• 56% (N.H. GOP)

University of New Hampshire Survey Center

Jan. 30-Feb. 5, 2013

"A background check on anyone attempting to purchase a gun in order to determine whether the prospective buyer has been convicted of a felony."

• 94% (N.H.)

• 99% (N.H. Dems)

• 92% (N.H. GOP)

• 91% (N.H. gun owners)

New England College

Jan. 21-22, 2-13

"There is a national proposal for universal gun background checks for gun sales through dealers, shows, and private individuals. Do you support the idea of universal background checks for gun purchases?"

• 88% (N.H.)


The findings for New Hampshire Democrats in the Giffords poll were generally in tune with the other polls we found. But the Republican numbers, while still a majority, were significantly lower in two New Hampshire polls than the 79 percent Giffords cited — 63 percent in a Dartmouth College poll and 56 percent in a Public Policy Polling survey.

Meanwhile, we’re not aware of any recent independent polls of New Hampshire NRA members. Two polls we have reviewed in previous fact-checks have looked at this issue nationally. But both were conducted by groups associated to one degree or another with the pro-gun-control position — one was sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and the other was conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, which is named for and supported financially by the founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

However, at least one independent poll this year, by CBS News and the New York Times found that nationally, 85 percent of respondents living in a household with an NRA member supported universal background checks.

Meanwhile, a May report from Pew Research Center shows it’s a mistake to assume support for expanded background checks is the same as support for background check legislation.

Support among Republicans and gun owners for expanding background checks in that national survey — in the 80 percent range — fell to around 60 percent when they were asked about the Senate bill.

And while 79 percent of Republican gun owners favored background checks, just 43 percent wanted the Senate’s background checks legislation to pass.

Our ruling

Giffords, seeking common ground for gun control legislation, said "in New Hampshire, 93 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of gun owners and 60 percent of NRA households support background checks."

The numbers came from polling on behalf of her own advocacy group. We found some independent evidence that New Hampshire voters support expanded background checks, through the support is weaker among Republicans.

It’s also important to note that support for background checks doesn’t translate directly to support for the Senate bill Giffords mentioned in her op-ed. Support for the bill itself commands smaller majorities, and a minority of gun-owning Republicans nationally.

Giffords’ claim requires clarification and additional information. We rate it Mostly True.

Our Sources

USA Today, "Gabrielle Giffords: Gun rights come with responsibilities," July 1, 2013

Americans for Responsible Solutions, "MSNBC: Gabrielle Giffords pushes on to revive gun debate," July 1, 2013

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, "Voters Show Senators a Way Out of a Bad Vote," June 25, 2013

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, "Support for Background Checks Continues in States Where Senators Voted 'No,'" June 27, 2013

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, "Advocacy: Our Clients," accessed July 3, 2013

Pew Research Center for People & the Press, "Broad Support for Renewed Background Checks Bill, Skepticism about Its Chances," May 23, 2013

Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, "Nelson A. Rockefeller Center Completes 6th Annual New Hampshire State of the State Poll on Politics, Economic Issues, and Social Policies," May 10, 2013

Public Policy Polling, "Voters still mad about lack of gun legislation," June 14, 2013 (Full results)

Public Policy Polling, "Ayotte faces backlash over gun vote," April 24, 2013 (Full results)

University of New Hampshire Survey Center, "THE WMUR GRANITE STATE POLL," Feb. 8, 2013

New England College, "NH VOTERS WANT GUN RESTRICTIONS," Jan. 24, 2013

PolitiFact, "A summary of the Manchin-Toomey gun proposal," April 30, 2013

PolitiFact, "Barack Obama says a 'wide majority of NRA households' supported gun legislation," April 19, 2013 (Mostly True)

PolitiFact Texas, "Lee Leffingwell says polls show 90 percent of Americans and 74 percent of NRA members support criminal background checks before all gun buys," April 4, 2013 (True)

PolitiFact, "Mark Kelly says 94 percent of Floridians support universal background checks," April 2, 2013 (True)

PolitiFact, "President Barack Obama says an 'overwhelming' majority supports gun legislation like background checks," Feb. 13, 2013 (Mostly True)

PolitiFact, "Rep. Jackie Speier says poll shows NRA members believe all gun buyers face background checks," Jan. 23, 2013 (Mostly True)

PolitiFact, "PAC ad says Kelly Ayotte voted to fix background checks on gun sales," May 15, 2013

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