The National Rifle Association, which thwarted new background check legislation in Congress, recently mailed a “survey” to gun owners with 12 questions related to gun rights, gun laws, and politics. I use scare quotes above because this NRA document (read it here) is a deeply misleading push poll, not an actual survey—and it lies about President Barack Obama’s positions on gun control.
The survey, provided to Mother Jones by a reader, claims that “President Obama has supported a national gun registration system allowing federal government officials to keep track of all your firearm purchases.” This is an all-too-common NRA talking point. NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre echoed it in January, saying that Obama “wants to put every private, personal transaction under the thumb of the federal government, and he wants to keep all those names in a massive federal registry.”
That’s not true.
Federal law has long banned a national gun registry. And the recent gun control bill that died in Congress, which was cosponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and fully supported by Obama, did not create a national gun registry. In fact, the bill expressly prohibited such a registry. Obama emphasized this point repeatedly, and award-winning mainstream media fact-checkers backed him up.
Last January, Time‘s Michael Scherer pressed the NRA on its repeated accusation that Obama aims to set up a gun registry, and a spokesman for the group referred him to a statement Obama made as a state senator in 2001: “Too many of these guns end up in the hands of criminals even though they were originally purchased by people who did not have a felony. I’ll continue to be in favor of handgun law registration requirements and licensing requirements for training.” Yet as a presidential candidate, Obama ruled out a gun registration system, and as president, he has never proposed a national gun registry.
The NRA, in its survey, also refers to the “Obama gun-ban agenda.” That’s wrong, too. Last year, PolitiFact took a look at a similar claim in which the NRA asserted that “Obama admits he’s coming for our guns, telling Sarah Brady, ‘We are working on (gun control), but under the radar.'” PolitiFact rated that charge “Pants on Fire.” As FactCheck.org notes, Obama is not trying to seize guns already owned by Americans. He supports reinstating the 1994 assault weapons ban, but that’s a position he’s held for many years.
The NRA’s survey is riddled with bad information and leading questions designed to make recipients fear the worst. The goal, it seems, is not to gather information but to spread disinformation—and to recruit new members. At the end of the survey, recipients are asked to sign up with the NRA and “tell gun banners in Congress and my state legislature to keep their hands off my guns and my rights!” And there’s a nifty form of encouragement for those who do enlist: a free NRA pocketknife.