Almost two-thirds of those polled — 65 percent — think the Senate should have passed the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks to gun shows and online sales, which was blocked when it didn’t receive 60 votes in the upper house of Congress earlier this month, according to a new poll from Gallup.
The legislation is supported overwhelmingly by Democrats and Independents, which helps explain why Pat Toomey (R-PA), who supported the bill, has seen his approval rating skyrocket in recent weeks while Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) has seen hers dive.
Even a vast majority of Republicans — 73 percent — would vote yes on a ballot initiative that would “require background checks for all gun purchases.” That would go even further than the Manchin-Toomey amendment, which would leave a loophole for private sales.
The poll also tested some of the NRA’s favorite talking points — “guns don’t kill people,” etc. — on those who oppose the measure and this also illuminates the issue the NRA and gun rights supporters face going forward. The most popular objection, “violates the Second Amendment,” chosen by 40 percent, implicitly argues that existing background checks are a violation of gun rights — yet they aren’t arguing to repeal existing checks.
Gun reformers are fond of saying that 9 out of 10 Americans support expanded background checks, as Gallup found when they polled the same issue in late January. That talking point should be updated to 8 out of 10, with support declining 8 percent as the memory of the Newtown massacre fades and the issue has become increasingly partisan.
Now that bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have been defeated, proponents of new gun laws have the advantage of focusing on one very specific reform that’s extremely popular with voters. That’s why both the NRA and reformers believe this fight is not over.