June 24, 2013

West Virginia poll shows support for expanding background checks | The Herald-Dispatch

West Virginia is more conservative on gun control issues than most states.

But even in the Mountain State, support is strong for expanding background checks on weapon sales, the recent West Virginia Poll shows.

About 75 percent of those interviewed said they would support a law requiring background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows, according to the non-partisan poll conducted for the Charleston Daily Mail by by R.L. Repass and Partners. About 17 percent said they would oppose such a law.

That is a little less support than such proposals have nationally -- a December Gallup poll showed that 92 percent of Americans favor background checks on gun show sales. But it is still an overwhelming majority, and for good reason.

West Virginians, like all Americans, are concerned by the mass shootings in Colorado, Virginia and Connecticut by mentally unstable people who gained access to firearms and ammunition. But problems with background checks have surfaced here as well. Tennis Maynard, who is charged in the April shooting death of Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum, had a history of mental illness. Yet, somehow he was still able to buy a Glock pistol from a local gun dealer.

The poll, however, shows West Virginians are much less likely to support other gun control measures. Only 44 percent said they would support an assault weapons ban, and 42 percent said they would oppose it. Only 47 percent of West Virginians polled said they would support a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Interestingly, residents seem to be very much in line with the proposals of West Virginia's U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.

Manchin has been criticized by the National Rifle Association for his efforts on background checks, suggesting that he is somehow out of touch with voters in the state.

But Manchin has been working for exactly what West Virginians appear to favor -- expanded background checks, not bans on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines.

The bi-partisan bill Manchin co-sponsored died in the Senate last spring, but he plans to try again. In fact, Manchin last week began airing his own response ad asking residents to voice their support for background checks to the NRA.

Trying to do more to keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally unstable and known criminals is a reasonable thing to do, and Manchin should be commended for seeking the common ground that makes sense for his constituents and the American people.