The idea of expanded background checks for prospective gun owners is quickly becoming the battleground in Congress for any changes in national weapons control legislation.
A Quinnipiac poll covering three states, Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, showed that more than 90 percent of those polled favored expanding background checks to people who buy weapons at gun shows.
Last week, Constitution Daily looked at polling questions on guns from nine different sources, including Fox News, NBC, ABC, Pew Research, and Gallup.
On average, 89 percent of those people polled wanted expanded background checks. The background check issue, along with a desire to devote more resources to mental health issues, were the two ideas that had overwhelmingly large support in the polls.
At Wednesday’s gun violence hearings in Washington, the National Rifle Association and a key GOP senator downplayed the significance of expanding background checks.
“My problem with background checks is you’re never going to get criminals to go through universal background checks,” said Wayne LaPierre, CEO for the NRA, told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “None of it makes any sense in the real world.”
The NRA sees expanding checks to private sales and at guns shows as ineffective measures.
That doesn’t mean the NRA isn’t supporting other efforts related to background checks.
On Thursday, NRA president David Keane said the group supported measures to fine-tune the current system used by licensed gun dealers, and the inclusion in that system of people judged to be mentally ill.
This week, it became apparent that the fight in Congress will most likely center on two issues: background checks and mental health concerns.
Proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity gun clips face an extreme uphill battle, especially with a number of Democrats siding with the GOP to oppose such measures.
Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, even questioned if the Second Amendment would permit expanded background checks.
In an interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, Grassley said background checks were a problematic issue for his committee.
“It’s something that’s going to get a good look and it ought to get a good look, but expanding it, I’m not sure that we know where we’ll go in that direction,” he said.
Senator Patrick Leahy, who heads the committee, said in a statement on Wednesday that expanding checks wasn’t a constitutional issue.
“Second Amendment rights are the foundation on which our discussion rests. They are not at risk. But lives are at risk when responsible people fail to stand up for laws that will keep guns out of the hands of those who will use them to commit murder, especially mass murder,” said Leahy.
The Obama administration is expected to make background checks the focus of a large media campaign to get wide-ranging measures through the House and Senate.
The Judiciary Committee will start drafting legislation in February.
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