NRA Leadership Virtually Alone In Opposition To Expanding Background Checks For Every Gun Sale

The National Rifle Association's stand against expanding the criminal background check system to all gun buyers has become a lonely one. The NRA has been abandoned by other gun lobby activists, conservative media figures, and the American public.

The NRA's Leaders Oppose Requiring A Criminal Background Check On Every Gun Sale

NRA's Top Lobbyist: “NRA Does NOT Support Universal Background Checks.” From a January 24 press release from NRA Media columnist Chris W. Cox issued by the NRA's lobbying wing, the Institute for Legislative Action: 

An article appearing on today asserted that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is working on a bill with the NRA that would implement universal background checks.

NRA does NOT support universal background checks and is not working with Manchin to implement this type of legislation.  NRA opposes, and will continue to oppose, universal background checks and registration schemes. [The National Rifle Association, 1/24/13]

On Fox Business, NRA Exec Claimed Background Check Expansion Would Lead To Gun Registry And Possible Confiscation. On the March 4 edition of Varney & Company, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who writes a regular column for the NRA's America's 1st Freedom magazine, claimed “you're creating a registry of all the law-abiding people in the country that own firearms,” even though federal law prohibits the creation of such a registry. LaPierre suggested that such a registry could lead to firearm confiscation. [Media Matters3/4/13]

Flip-Flop: LaPierre Previously Supported An Expansion Of Background Checks

USA Today: NRA Position On Background Checks “Appeared To Be A Reversal Of LaPierre's 1999 Testimony On The Issue.” From a January 30 USA Today article about a confrontation during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee between Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and LaPierre over expanded background checks:

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre criticized universal background checks, saying they would be as ineffective as current laws are today.

The statement appeared to be a reversal of LaPierre's 1999 testimony on the issue to the House Judiciary Committee, during which he said, “We think it's reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone.”

When pressed on the change by Leahy during the Wednesday hearing, LaPierre said, “Senator, I do not believe the way the law is working now, unfortunately, that it does any good to extend the law to private sales between hobbyists and collectors.” [USA Today1/30/13]

Top NRA Allies Break With NRA On Background Checks

Washington Post: Gun Industry Trade Group Does Not Take NRA Position On Background Checks. In a March 5 Washington Post article, National Shooting Sports Foundation president Steve Sanetti said that his organization is “already there, and we've been there, and we were the ones that have been the strongest proponents of an effective, complete background check.” Many of the gun manufacturers represented by the NSSF are NRA corporate donors:

Some of the gun lobby's strongest allies are breaking with the National Rifle Association to support proposals that would expand background checks for private firearm sales.


The trade group for the nation's leading firearm manufacturers said it will not actively oppose the expansion of background checks, which are designed to prevent guns from reaching criminals or the seriously mentally ill.

“That's more the NRA's issue,” Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), said in an interview. “From the commercial side, we're already there, and we've been there, and we were the ones that have been the strongest proponents of an effective, complete background check.” [The Washington Post3/5/13]

Fraternal Order Of Police Head Supports Expanding Background Check System. The Post article also described support for expanding background checks by the Fraternal Order of Police, a group described as a past NRA legislative ally:

[T]he head of the nation's largest police union, which was allied with the NRA in a major legislative battle in the past, has joined the movement for expanded background checks.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said in an interview that he now supports extending checks to gun shows and other venues where they are not required.

“Closing that gap would make it much more difficult for criminals to obtain firearms,” he said. [The Washington Post3/5/13

Second Amendment Foundation Expressed Willingness To Strike A Deal On Expanded Background Checks. From the March 5 Post article:

Not all of the NRA's traditional allies share this sense of alarm. For example, the founder of the pro-gun Second Amendment Foundation tentatively backed a proposed compromise bill in Washington state last month that would expand checks while limiting state firearms record-keeping.


In Washington state last month, the head of a gun rights group offered to support mandatory background-check legislation for most firearm sales in exchange for a state commitment not to maintain gun records. It's not clear whether the proposal will succeed but it has drawn support across the divide of the gun debate.

“This is a good compromise with real give-and-take,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation and chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. [The Washington Post3/5/13]

Polling: Even In Conservative States, Americans Overwhelmingly Support Background Checks On Every Gun Sale

Quinnipiac University Poll: 91 Percent Of Americans With A Gun In The Home Support A Background Check On Every Gun Sale. From February 7 article discussing a Quinnipiac poll, which was conducted between January 30 and February 4:

As the White House continues its campaign to build support for stronger national gun laws, a new poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans - 92 percent - support the idea of background checks for all gun buyers.

The Quinnipiac University poll, conducted among 1,772 registered voters from Jan. 30-Feb. 4, showed that support among those living in a gun-owning household was almost equally high: 91 percent of those voters said they support universal background checks.

“There is no significant voter opposition to requiring background checks for gun buyers,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement. “And there is support for banning high volume ammunition clips and assault weapons, with the issue pretty much falling along party lines.” The poll echoes similar findings in a CBS News/New York Times poll taken last month. [, 2/7/13]

Recent Polling Contracted By Mayors Against Illegal Guns Demonstrates Strong State-Level Support For Expanded Background Checks. 

  • 83 Percent Of Utahns Support Expanding Background Check System To Include All Gun Buyers. [Schoen LLC, 3/5/13]
  • 94 Percent Of Floridians Support Expanding Background Check System To Include All Gun Buyers. [Schoen LLC, 3/5/13]
  • 94 Percent Of North Dakotans Support Expanding Background Check System To Include All Gun Buyers. [Schoen LLC, 3/5/13]
  • 87 Percent Of Oklahomans Support Expanding Background Check System To Include All Gun Buyers. [Schoen LLC, 3/5/13]
  • 90 Percent Of Arizonans Support Expanding Background Check System To Include All Gun Buyers. [Schoen LLC, 3/5/13]
  • 85 Percent Of Louisianans Support Expanding Background Check System To Include All Gun Buyers. [Schoen LLC, 3/5/13]

Conservatives In Media Support A Background Check On Every Gun Sale

Fox's Bill O'Reilly: Support For Background Checks A "Reasonable Position." During the December 5 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly called NBC sportscaster Bob Costas' advocacy for background checks and other gun reforms “reasonable positions”:

COSTAS: Roughly 40 percent of the guns purchased in this country do not require a background check for purchase.

O'REILLY: OK. So you want a background check, right?

COSTAS: You have that. You've talked about stricter penalties, harsher penalties for those --

O'REILLY: For criminals.

COSTAS: Exactly.

O'REILLY: Right.

COSTAS: There is that. There ought to be training programs for those who purchase guns. I don't see any reason why someone should be able to purchase military-style artillery and body armor and automatic weapons. Only the police or the military should have that --

O'REILLY: All right, all of those are reasonable positions. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor12/5/12

Fox Business Host Lou Dobbs: We Should “Absolutely” Do Background Checks. From the January 14 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight on Fox Business:

DOUG SCHOEN: But you look at the new Washington Post poll out today, by 10 to 1 people want tougher restrictions. Lou, aren't you for universal background checks?

LOU DOBBS: I am for... absolutely, universal background checks. [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight1/14/13

Fox's Greg Gutfeld: “I'm All For Background Checks.” From the January 24 edition of Fox News' The Five:

BOB BECKEL: Are you in favor of doing gun control - gun shows, that they have to go through the same background checks?

GREG GUTFELD: I'm all for background checks. [Fox News, The Five1/24/13]

MSNBC Host Joe Scarborough Wrote Politico Op-Ed In Support Of Background Checks: “Americans Have Had Enough.” From a February 18 opinion piece by former Republican Rep. Joe Scarborough:

It is a fortunate coincidence in the ongoing gun safety debate that the most important measure proposed by President Barack Obama is also the most popular with Americans. Over 90 percent of voters support Congress passing a universal background check in the wake of Newtown and the flood of murders that have occurred over the past year as a result of gun violence.

Americans have had enough. And now even some the most pro-gun members in Congress are moving toward a bipartisan bill that would pass such checks. The bill being introduced in the Senate by Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is gaining momentum, and this weekend John McCain (R-Ariz.) predicted the bill would receive wide bipartisan support. [Politico2/18/13]