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Background Checks Overwhelmingly Supported By Gun Owners In 4 States (UPDATE)

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BACKGROUND CHECKS
Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on Jan. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) | AP

WASHINGTON -- More than nine in 10 voters in Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania support some form of background check on gun buyers, according to three separate Quinnipiac polls taken during the month of January, with roughly equal support among gun owners and all voters.

Overwhelming majorities of voters -- 92 percent in Virginia and 95 percent in New Jersey -- favor requiring background checks on people buying firearms at gun shows, Quinnipiac found, with support for the proposal also topping 90 percent among gun owners.

Pennsylvania voters, who were instead asked about a broader universal background check on gun buyers, gave that measure 95 percent support, as did the state's gun owners.

The issue of gun control remains highly partisan, with Democrats more than twice as likely as Republicans to say they're dissatisfied with current gun laws. But background checks have shown the potential to transcend that divide. In Virginia, Republicans and Democrats were equally likely to support background checks, according to Quinnipiac, while in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the gap between the groups stood at a mere 2 percentage points.

While Quinnipiac's Virginia results are somewhat more favorable on expanding background checks than those of a Roanoke College poll also released this week, the Roanoke survey likewise found overwhelming support for the measure. In the Roanoke poll, 86 percent of Virginians, including 84 percent of gun owners, favored background checks at gun shows. Universal background checks were favored by three-quarters of Virginians and just under two-thirds of Virginian gun owners.

Nationally, surveys taken since the Newtown, Conn., shooting similarly show a broad consensus behind background checks, outstripping the support given to most other gun control policies. A CBS/New York Times poll found that 92 percent of Americans favor universal background checks. Other surveys showed support for the proposal hovering somewhere between 80 and 90 percent.

The NRA opposes any changes to current background check policy, with President David Keene saying that universal background checks would be too difficult to enforce. NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre, who called background checks at gun shows "reasonable" in 1999, told senators on Wednesday that he is opposed to the proposal.

An NRA survey of its members, released this week, avoided the topic entirely. While it asked members' opinions on seven gun control measures -- including stricter mental health laws, bans on high-capacity magazines and the NRA's own proposal to add armed security at schools -- expanded background checks weren't addressed.

In Quinnipiac's recent polls of Virginia and New Jersey, smaller majorities of between one-half and two-thirds of voters supported stationing armed police at schools. A national survey by the Pew Research Center found that 64 percent of people favored armed security guards in schools.

UPDATE: 2:24 p.m. -- A University of Connecticut/Hartford Courant poll, released Thursday, found that 90 percent of Connecticut adults favor background checks at gun shows. While the state already has some of the nation's strictest gun laws, 64 percent supported tightening them further.

"Connecticut, being a blue state and having a lower percentage of gun owners than we see nationally, is probably a bit more predisposed to supporting this legislation,'' poll director Jennifer Necci Dineen told the Courant. "And Sandy Hook has hit home."

The survey was taken between Jan. 24 and Jan. 28.

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