This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters’ mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.
As we’re probably all aware, poll after poll clearly demonstrates that the American people support reasonable, commonsense restrictions on guns in this country. For instance, by a 62%-35% margin, Americans believe “the federal government [should] be allowed to ban the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons, except for use by the military or police.” By a 51%-7% margin, Americans believe “gun control laws in this country should be more strict than they are now” (39% say they’re “about right” as they currently are).
Here in Virginia, Hart Research has found that Virginians overwhelmingly support gun safety measures like requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns (95% favor); requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check (89% favor); and requiring sellers at gun shows to run a background check (88% favor). To a slightly lesser extent – but still strong majorities – Virginians support requiring gun owners to register guns (67% favor) and also support banning the sale of high-capacity ammo magazines (66% favor). Also, around the country, large majorities (69%-80%) oppose allowing guns in bars, in government buildings, or on college campuses.
Keep those poll numbers in mind as you read the 2011 candidate surveys from the Virginia NRA and the Virginia Citizens Defense League, both of which are currently circulating to our state legislators and candidates. What on these questionnaires tells us a great deal, both about how out of the mainstream these groups’ agendas are, and also specifically where they’d like like gun laws to go in Virginia and nationwide. For instance, from the NRA:
*”Would you support legislation amending Virginia concealed handgun statutes to permit a non-resident to carry a concealed firearm in Virginia if he or she has a valid license issued from his or her state of residence and carries such license on his or her person while in Virginia?” (their preferred answer is clearly “YES”)
*”Anti-gun groups are promoting legislation that would mandate firearm manufacturers incorporate unproven technology that would theoretically “micro-stamp” identifying information about the firearms on a cartridge case upon firing…such a mandate would require de facto registration of guns…Would you support legislation mandating ‘micro-stamping’ in Virginia?” (their preferred answer is clearly “NO”)
*”Since the passage of the ‘one-gun-a-month‘ law in 1993, there has been no credible evidence that this gun-rationing statute has reduced violent crime in Virginia or any other state…Would you support legislation to repeal the Virginia gun-rationing law outright?” (their preferred answer is clearly “YES”)
*”Would you support legislation to restrict the sale, purchase, possession and transfer of semi-automatic firearms?” (their preferred answer is clearly “NO”)
*”…several states have recently considered legislation to require that locking devices be placed on firearms kept in the house…severely limit[ing] the ability to use a firearm for self-defense purposes and potentially increas[ing] the risk of a firearm accident. Would you support legislation requiring locking devices (safes, trigger locks, cable locks…) or other locking procedures for firearms stored in the home?” (their preferred answer is clearly “NO”)
*”The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages its members to ask many intrusive questions of their patients under the ruse of preventing ‘gun violence.’…Do you believe firearm ownership is your personal matter and doctors should stop questioning patients about firearm ownership?” (their preferred answer is clearly “YES”)
Now, here are a few questions from the VCDL, which is even further to the “right” than the already outside-the-mainstream NRA.
*”Will you vote FOR legislation recognizing all other states’ concealed carry permits?” (their preferred answer is clearly “YES”)
*”Will you vote FOR legislation to more closely conform school gun policy with federal standards by allowing concealed handgun permit holders to have a gun on their person while on school grounds?” (their preferred answer is clearly “YES”)
*”Will you vote FOR legislation that would prevent public colleges and universities from penalizing students, faculty, and staff with concealed handgun permits who carry on campus?” (their preferred answer is clearly “YES”)
*”Will you vote FOR legislation to repeal this double standard on carrying of concealed handguns in restaurants licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for on premises consumption?” (their preferred answer is clearly “YES”)
*”Will you vote FOR ‘Constitutional Carry’ legislation that would allow law-abiding citizens to carry firearms openly or concealed (at the individual’s discretion) for any reason except the commission of a crime?” (their preferred answer is clearly “YES”)
*”Will you vote AGAINST any bill that would allow localities to restrict the carrying or possession of firearms by law-abiding citizens in recreation centers, libraries, or other government facilities?” (their preferred answer is clearly “YES”)
*”Will you vote AGAINST government mandated use of trigger locks or other such hazardous ‘safety’ devices which have the effect of making it difficult, if not impossible, to have a gun available to defend your home and family?” (their preferred answer is clearly “YES”)
*”Will you vote AGAINST any legislation designed to ban or restrict non-dealer private gun transfers (whether at gun shows or outside of gun shows)?” (their preferred answer is clearly “YES”)
Now, compare these questions to the polling on these topics. The contrast couldn’t be more glaring, whether on the “gunshow loophole;” gun safety measures’ guns in bars, schools, and government buildings; making guns and ammunition traceable; requiring background checks; etc., etc.
The bottom line is that these gun groups are not innocent “rifle clubs” or whatever they like to call themselves. They also are not in the least bit “mainstream,” if “mainstream” is defined as “what the vast majority of people want or don’t want.” Instead, these are special interest groups, pushing a very clear political agenda, focused on one issue (and one issue alone), and aiming to gut any and all laws restricting the ownership or use of firearms of any type.
Also, as the person who forwarded these questionnaires to me (and who works intensively on this issue in Virginia) points out, many of the questions in these surveys misstate the facts, are disingenuous in a variety of ways, and are cleverly designed to trap and trick the candidates answering them. Probably the smartest thing 2011 candidates in Virginia can do is not respond to these questionnaires at all, because they really can’t win if they do so. Even more troubling, think about what Virginia – and America – would look like if these groups get their way on many or most of their demands? Extremely powerful and deadly concealed weapons anywhere and everywhere, held by people who have received minimal if any scrutiny or training. Basically, it’s Virginia (and America) as the Wild West. Does that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, or does it perhaps send a chill down your spine? Personally, I’d vote for the latter.