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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher March 15, 2021

Support for universal background checks on gun buyers is near 90%

If Your Time is short

  • Many of the latest polls on universal background checks for gun buyers show support at or near 90%. Nearly all were done in 2019.

  • One recent poll, in March 2021, shows support at 84%.

The day after the House passed legislation to expand background checks for gun sales, a lengthy Facebook questioned the popularity of the measure.

The headline said: "90% of Americans Do NOT Support Universal Background Checks — HR 8

The text underneath said: "On Wednesday, California House Representative Mike Thompson claimed that 90% of Americans Support the universal background check gun control bill HR 8. I’m here to tell you today that this is not true. The Anti-Gun Lobby has been making this lie up for years."

The post is from Colion Noir, a gun rights advocate who has 1.41 million Facebook followers. It was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Thompson, the California Democrat who sponsored H.R. 8, has said it would require background checks for all gun sales and that "we have 90% of the American people on our side."

The last time national polls were widely done on background checks was in 2019, when the House passed a similar bill. When Americans were asked if they support universal background checks, support was at or near 90%.

We found only one national poll since 2019. It was taken online a few days before the House vote and showed 84% support. 

The bill and the poster

H.R. 8 is the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021. It would prohibit gun transfers between private parties unless a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer, or importer first takes possession of the firearm to conduct a background check. There would be some exceptions, such as gifts between immediate-family members. 

"Nothing in this Act, or any amendment made by this Act, shall be construed to authorize the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a national firearms registry," the bill says.

The House passed the bill 227-203 on March 11 and sent it to the Senate. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine was the only Democrat to vote no; eight Republicans, including three from Florida, voted yes. 

Colion Noir is an alias used by Texas lawyer Collins Iyare Idehen Jr. As a host on the National Rifle Association’s TV channel, he criticized students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., as being un-American when they led a protest march in Washington after a former student shot and killed 17 people at their school in 2018. 

Noir argues in his post that a national gun registry would have to be established in order to enforce universal background checks, and that support for universal checks would not be 90% if a registry were required. But neither his post nor an accompanying video provides evidence to back up his claim. He did not reply to our email. 

Gun sellers in all 50 states who are federal firearms licensees already use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to verify that a gun buyer does not have a criminal record or is not otherwise ineligible to purchase or own a firearm. Universal checks would extend that to all gun purchases.

The most recent poll that we found was conducted March 6-8, just before the House vote, by Morning Consult/Politico. Registered voters polled online were asked: "To what extent do you support or oppose the following — requiring background checks for all gun purchasers?" Those who said they strongly or somewhat support such a measure totaled 84%

The pollsters asked a similar question in August 2019, and found 90% support.

Other polls from 2019 found support for background checks in a similar range, from 83% to 93%, even with some variety in the phrasing of the question; in some cases, it mentioned Congress, pending legislation or the goal of reducing gun violence. Here’s a rundown:

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist  

Washington Post-ABC News

Sept. 2-5: "Would you support or oppose requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers, including private sales and gun shows?" Support: 89%.

Pew Research Center

Sept. 3-15: "Please indicate whether you would favor or oppose the following proposals about gun policy — making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks." Favor: 87%.

Quinnipiac University

  • Aug. 21-26: "Do you support or oppose requiring background checks for all gun buyers?" Support: 93% (92% to 94% in three other polls between January and May.)

  • September: "As you may know, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would require background checks on all gun sales, including those at gun shows and through online retailers. Do you support or oppose this bill?" Support: 83% (down from 86% in March).

Suffolk University/USA Today

Aug. 20-25: "Do you support requiring background checks for all firearm sales?" Support: 90%.

Monmouth University

Aug. 16-20: "Do you support or oppose requiring comprehensive background checks for all gun purchasers, including private sales between two individuals?" Support: 83%.

NBC News/Wall Street Journal

Aug. 10-14: "I'm going to read you some actions that Congress might take related to guns. Would you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose expanding background checks to all firearm sales and transfers?" Strongly or somewhat support: 89%.

Fox News

Aug. 11-13: "Do you favor or oppose ...requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers, including those buying at gun shows and private sales?" Favor: 90%.

Associated Press-National Opinion Research Center

March 14-18: "Do you favor, oppose, or neither favor nor oppose ... a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers, including private sales and gun shows?" Favor: 83%

Has there been a change since 2019?

Marquette Law School Poll director Charles Franklin said he hasn’t polled recently on background checks because his focus has been on the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 election, and that’s likely true for other pollsters. 

Kathleen Weldon, director of data operations and communications at the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University, said she was not surprised there hasn’t been much recent polling on background checks, because gun control has not been in the news. 

"I wouldn’t put too much weight on any single polling result," Weldon said of Morning Consult’s March 2021 poll. "To be convinced there was any sort of meaningful drop in support in something where support has been in the high-80s or low-90s for a couple decades, I would definitely want to see more than one example."

Our ruling

Noir claimed in a Facebook post that "90% of Americans do not support universal background checks."

This contradicts numerous polls that show the opposite: The best available evidence is that support for universal background checks is at or near 90%.

We rate the post False.

Our Sources

Facebook, post, March 12, 2021

Congress.gov, H.R.8, accessed March 13, 2021

Morning Consult/Politico, "National Tracking Poll #210332," March 06-08, 2021

Morning Consult/Politico, "National Tracking Poll #190816," Aug. 05-07, 2019

Fox News Poll, August 2019 poll, Aug. 14, 2019

Email, Cornell University Roper Center for Public Opinion Research director of data operations and communications Kathleen Weldon, March 14, 2021

Email, Marquette Law School Poll director Charles Franklin, March 13, 2021

PolitiFact, "A majority of Iowans and Americans support background checks for gun buyers," March 12, 2021

Gallup, "Guns," accessed March 13, 2021

PollingReport.com, "Guns," accessed March 13, 2021

Associated Press-National Opinion Research Center, March 2019 poll, accessed March 15, 2021

Hart Research Associates/Public Opinion Strategies, NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, August 2019

Quinnipiac University Poll, news release, Aug. 29, 2019

Quinnipiac University Poll, news release, Sept. 25, 2019

Suffolk University, August 2019 poll, Sept. 9, 2019

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, February 2019 results

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, July 2019 results

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, September 2019 results

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, December 2019 results

Monmouth University, news release, March 8, 2018

Pew Research Center, "American Trends Panel," Sept. 3-15, 2019

Washington Post-ABC News Poll, September 2019

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, news release, March 11, 2021

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Support for universal background checks on gun buyers is near 90%

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