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Accurately track public opinion on gun safety laws

This petition had 547 supporters


The Pew Research Center is "one of the least biased, most reliable polling organizations in the country" according to  slate.com. Because of its authority, Pew can shape the debate on issues of importance. So when a Pew survey asks a question in a biased manner, it matters. That's the case with Pew's question about gun laws, and why we're asking them to add a new, more balanced question.

To better track public opinion on the gun issue ask a new question: "Which do you think is more important: make it harder for criminals, domestic abusers and the severely mentally ill to get guns or protect the right to own guns with minimal restrictions?"

In December, Pew reported that for the first time in 20 years, Americans believe it is more important to protect gun rights than it is to control gun ownership. The report received widespread media coverage because it stands in stark contrast to the crisis of gun violence that claims 30,000 lives each year. But the premise of the question is flawed. It presents a false choice between regulating firearms and protecting Second Amendment rights.

Pew's director of political research, Carroll Doherty, admitted as much when he told Mother Jones "Is it a perfect question? Probably not." Experts on gun policy are critical of the question. Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research told Media Matters "I could not think of a worse way to ask questions about public opinions about gun policies." 

The Pew survey question ("which is more important: protect gun rights or control gun ownership?") does gun violence prevention a disservice by suggesting there is less support for common-sense gun laws than there actually is. That's why we're petitioning the Pew Research Center to add a new question that accurately measures public opinion on the importance of strengthening gun safety laws versus protecting easy access to firearms. 

Pew's question creates a false perception of gun safety advocates, who are not trying to "control gun ownership" but rather want reasonable regulations that keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people. We also believe in balancing public safety against individual rights by restricting highly lethal weaponry such as large capacity magazines and firearms designed for military use.

Asked in a way that appropriately frames the debate, Americans support gun safety laws in far higher proportions than the Pew survey suggests.  In a survey conducted for Everytown for Gun Safety, 63 percent of voters believe it is more important to make it harder for dangerous or severely mentally ill people to get guns than it is to protect the right to own guns.

Politicians follow public opinion - we need to make sure they're hearing the right message on gun violence prevention!



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