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PolitiFact.com | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in politics

NRA support for background checks is high, but polls predate bill

The statement

A "wide majority of NRA households … supported this legislation" on gun background checks.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday in the White House Rose Garden

The ruling

After the Senate failed to advance an amendment that would have expanded federal requirements for background checks on gun purchasers, President Barack Obama took to the White House Rose Garden to denounce the vote, calling it "a pretty shameful day for Washington."

At several points in his remarks, Obama invoked his gun-policy adversary, the National Rifle Association. "To the wide majority of NRA households who supported this legislation, you need to let your leadership and lobbyists in Washington know they didn't represent your views on this one," Obama said.

We found that two independent polls have attempted to take the pulse of the NRA's membership on universal background checks, the linchpin of both the failed compromise amendment sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa, and the underlying bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Here's how the data stack up.

• One poll was done by CBS News and the New York Times. The survey, conducted Jan. 11-15, found that 85 percent of those living in a household with an NRA member favored background checks for all potential gun buyers.

• The other survey, by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, was taken Feb. 13-18. It found that "people in NRA households overwhelmingly favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks: 74 percent favor this proposal, while just 26 percent are opposed."

These results verify that rank-and-file NRA members and those who live with them favor universal background checks by margins of between 74 percent and 85 percent.

Still, there's a problem with Obama's phrasing. He said that a "wide majority of NRA households … supported this legislation." Both of these polls were taken before either of the two relevant pieces of legislation were filed in the Senate. Reid's underlying bill was submitted March 21, while the Manchin-Toomey amendment was submitted April 11.

So while the polls do demonstrate strong support for background checks — a key element of both Senate measures — it's a bit of a stretch to say that the NRA members polled supported "this legislation." The legislation in question hadn't even been introduced yet.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

NRA support for background checks is high, but polls predate bill 04/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 19, 2013 10:57pm]
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