Judging from the results of a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, a wide spectrum of Americans of both parties has reached consensus on the need for specific, common-sense actions to reduce the death toll taken by guns without intruding on Second Amendment rights granted under the Constitution.
The question is, how much power does an angry, paranoid and politically aggressive minority still wield over gun policy in this country? I suspect that we’re going to find that it’s an awful lot. The NRA’s grip on Washington is so strong that we can’t even get a director confirmed to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the agency tasked with enforcing federal gun laws. The ATF has gone leaderless since 2006, because under President Bush and now President Obama, Senate Republicans have refused to even allow a vote on the nomination.
You want another example? The ATF is forbidden by federal law to create a computer database allowing its agents to trace ownership of guns used in a crime. The search has to be done manually, in a time-eating process of phone call after phone call, and sifting through boxes of paper records. That’s because in its infinite paranoia, the NRA insists that a computerized system would violate the Second Amendment by making it easier for the government to go door to door, confiscating the 180 million weapons estimated to be in private hands.
Seriously, they think that’s going to happen.
According to the ABC/WaPo poll, most Americans don’t put much credence in that fantasy. It found that 71 percent of Americans support creation of a national gun database. That includes 61 percent of Republicans.
In addition, 65 percent of Americans — including 59 percent of Republicans — say they support a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Seventy-six percent would require a background check before a person is allowed to purchase ammunition, a figure that includes 69 percent of Republicans.
That strong bipartisan consensus breaks down only on the issue of a ban on assault weapons. Overall, 58 percent of Americans and 54 percent of independents would support such a ban, but only 45 percent of Republicans would do so.
But the most telling data in the poll involves the 44 percent of those surveyed who live in a home where guns are kept. Of that subset, 86 percent would support closing the “gun-show” loophole on background checks. Seventy-six percent of gun owners endorse a background check for ammo sales; 62 percent would back a national firearms database, and 55 percent support a ban on large-capacity magazines.
Such numbers confirm that gun owners, as a rule, are far more reasonable about common-sense approaches to gun safety than is the extremist organization that purports to represent their interests. But in the end, I’m not confident that will matter much.
– Jay Bookman