Americans overwhelmingly support background checks on guns. Why doesn’t Congress?

A new poll from Quinnipiac University sheds more light on one of the more remarkable aspects of U.S. politics: Americans overwhelmingly support expanding background checks for gun purchases. Yet when the issue came up for a vote in the Senate last year, enough senators opposed a compromise proposal to expand background checks that supporters couldn't overcome a filibuster. But why not?

In the latest survey, 92 percent of respondents favored "background checks for all buyers." That's all of the little gray people below (except the faded out guy, who is listed as "don't know/no answer"). The people on the right, in red, are the few who oppose that expansion.

all

And, again, this holds for every group in America. Every political group.

repub
indys
demsv2

Both genders.

men
women

Every age group.

18
30
50
65

Even gun owners back the idea.

owners

So why won't an expansion of background checks pass? This graph, also from Quinnipiac, might provide some insight.

control

People support background checks, but are much more split on "gun control" as a concept. And as Washington Post polling shows, the two sides on gun control have grown more adamant in their positions over time.

stricter

People support background checks. But opponents of expanded background checks, who see that expansion as a form of gun control, have been effective at linking the two. Combined with the political power of groups like the National Rifle Association, that's enough to keep Congress from doing anything at all.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He previously wrote for The Wire, the news blog of The Atlantic magazine. He has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily, and the Huffington Post. Philip is based in New York City.
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