The One Area Where the NRA Won't Listen to American Gun Dealers

Here's something the National Rifle Association doesn't want you to know: A majority of gun dealers support expanded background checks, according to a new survey.

Despite the argument that enhanced checks on potential gun buyers may reduce sales, a majority of the retailers who responded to the survey supported denying gun purchases based on prior convictions, mental illness, or a history of alcohol or drug abuse. Conducted by the University of California, Davis Violence Prevention Research Program, the survey found that 55.4% of respondents supported expanding comprehensive background checks to gun shows, the internet, and all private transfers. Surveys were mailed to 1,601 gun dealers, pawn shops, and gunsmiths in 43 states.

"Retailers are well aware and concerned that prohibited persons, those with criminal intent and persons at high risk of committing crimes can readily acquire firearms under current conditions," said Garen Wintemute, professor of emergency medicine and director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. "Our survey was conducted in 2011 prior to mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; Newtown, Connecticut; and the Washington Navy Yard. Levels of concern may now be higher among firearm retailers, as they are among the public in general." Since the study debunks the argument that claims that most firearms dealers are opposed to background checks because they will increase workload, processing time and legal risk, isn't it pretty obvious that there should be an actual expansion in background checks?

The survey, conducted by Wintemute, was certainly important enough to grab the attention of the NRA, which has continued to voice its strong opposition to background checks. When Wintemute (also an NRA member) began his survey in 2011, he said he received a warning from the NRA urging members not to participate:

If you are a federally licensed dealer in firearms, you may recently have received a survey questionnaire from gun-control supporter Dr. Garen Wintemute, of the University of California, Davis.

Why is Dr. Wintemute sending the survey? Consider the source. Over the years, he has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from anti-gun organizations to conduct “studies” designed to promote gun control.

Thanks to the NRA's successful lobbying to cut off almost all funding for gun-violence research, including the Center for Disease Control, researchers have had a tough time pursuing data on gun deaths for their research. However, more than 90% of the public and 74% of NRA members have backed an expansion in background checks. In households with guns, 88% of respondents supported checks as well.

Multiple excuses have been broadcast by the NRA and other gun-control opposition groups, including the slippery slope to confiscation, the inefficiency of background checks, or that it's just a plain, old hassle. However, if only 8% of Americans oppose the policy and we can't get even get legislation passed for expanded background checks, it's hard to imagine anything like confiscation making it through without massive opposition. Like any system, expanded background checks will not be able to prevent gun violence. But just like speed limits don't stop all accidents, it certainly does decrease them. If the very people selling guns support it, then background-check expansion is certainly something worth looking into beyond the clutter of what if's and what might happen next.

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Hyacinth Mascarenhas

Hyacinth is a graduate of the George Washington University where she majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. Her interests include cultural, social and political trends in the Middle East and South Asia, as well as human rights issues across the globe.

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