A plurality of Americans believe the federal government could use information gleaned from expanded background checks to confiscate legally owned firearms, according to a Quinnipiac survey released Thursday.
But the poll also showed support for background checks remains nearly universal.
“In every Quinnipiac University poll since the Newtown massacre, nationally and in six states, we find overwhelming support, including among gun owners, for universal background checks,” Quinnipiac University Polling Institute Assistant Director Peter A. Brown said in a statement.
“American voters agree with the National Rifle Association, however, that these background checks could lead someday to confiscation of legally-owned guns.”
President Obama on Wednesday was in Denver seeking to build public support for expanded background checks, arguing it’s a common-sense approach to reducing gun violence in the country.
Obama blasted the National Rifle Association (NRA) for opposing the measure, which is among the key elements in a bill Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring to the floor next month. The NRA says universal background checks are the first step toward a national gun registry.
“We’re not proposing a gun registration system, we’re proposing background checks for criminals,” Obama said, urging gun owners to “get the facts.”
“The opponents of some of these common-sense [gun] laws have ginned up fears among gun owners,” the president added, alluding to the notion the government would use the registry to confiscate guns.
Background checks, once called the “sweet spot” for gun-control reform by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), have faced roadblocks in Congress, as Republicans argue existing laws aren’t enforced and that the record keeping requirements it would entail are akin to a federal registry.
Some conservatives have argued that the registry could lead to the government confiscating legally owned guns.
When the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the universal background checks bill along party lines last month, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he opposed the legislation because it could lead to “confiscation.”
Democrats say this argument is conspiratorial, and Schumer accused Grassley of “cheapening” the debate by bringing up confiscation.
When broken down along party lines, 61 percent of Republicans say background checks could lead to confiscation, against 25 percent who say they could not. A majority of independents also believe this – 51 to 36. Among Democrats, only 32 percent said universal background checks could lead to confiscation.
The Quinnipiac University poll of 1,711registered voters was conducted between March 26 and April 1 and has a 2.4 percentage-point margin of error.