“No Shot”: Media Still Pushing Misleading Gallup Gun Poll

An October Gallup poll on gun violence prevention that media outlets used to falsely claim that “support for gun control” had plummeted is still in use, with Patrick Kerkstra's op-ed in The Philadelphia Inquirer serving as the latest example.

Kerstra acknowledges that to him, “guns represent a plague, not protection,” and says he admires the efforts of the gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns and its chairman, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But Kerstra concludes that “new gun-control legislation is, for now at least, a nonstarter, saying that the arguments of gun lobby advocates ”are winning." He cites as evidence the Gallup poll, writing of Bloomberg:

In the short term, though, his agenda has no shot. According to an October Gallup poll, only 26 percent of Americans favor a handgun ban. More stunning is the finding that only 43 percent favored outlawing “assault rifles.” Good luck, Mayor Bloomberg.

A couple of decades ago, those polling numbers were altogether different. In 1991, 60 percent of respondents told Gallup that handguns ought to be banned, and 78 percent favored more stringent controls.

As we've noted, using the percent of American who favor a handgun ban as a proxy for whether they support gun violence prevention measures is inaccurate. The same poll found that 87 percent of respondents want the laws covering the sales of firearms either kept as they are now or made stricter, demonstrating broad national support for gun control. Moreover, Mayors Against Illegal Guns itself doesn't support a handgun ban, which is in any case is not an active issue after handgun bans were found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

It's also worth pointing out that other polls conducted last year showed strong support for banning assault weapons, as well as for an array of other measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals.

It is not public opinion but the efforts of the gun lobby, in particular the National Rifle Association, to intimidate lawmakers that has prevented the passage of sensible gun violence prevention legislation. But as new research from the American Prospect's Paul Waldman shows, “the NRA has virtually no impact on congressional elections" and “the power of the NRA's endorsement is largely a myth."