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Overwhelming support for background checks in new poll

New polling released Friday shows Americans overwhelmingly support universal background checks for gun sales.
(Photo by Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters)

New polling released Friday shows Americans overwhelmingly support universal background checks for gun sales. According to the Quinnipiac University poll, 88% of Americans nationwide support the measure while only 10% oppose. Support drops negligibly when among gun owners, who support universal checks 85% to 13%.

That support maintains in individual state polls as well, with 91% of Floridians, 93% of Connecticuters, 90% of Ohioans, 96% of New Jerseysans, and 92% of Virginians supporting the policy. In none of the states polled were gun owners significantly less supportive than the state as a whole.

In Pennsylvania, support for background checks was at 95% among both the general population and gun owners specifically. In fact, gun owners are less opposed to the measure. While 5% of all Pennsylvanians oppose background checks, only 4% of gun owners oppose it. That's no small feat in Pennsylvania, a state with such a strong history of gun ownership that the first day of deer hunting season is also a school holiday.

The news comes on the heels of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's announcement that background checks "must" be part of any major gun reform bill that passes the Senate, and could presumably help to motivate pro-gun Democrats or Republicans to support a federal law requiring background checks on all gun purchases.

The big question now, goes to the House, where Speaker John Boehner does not appear willing to support the measure. He's already flipped on the issue this week, telling CNN he supported doing "a real background check on everyone" on Wednesday, only to backtrack the next day with a clarification from his spokesman that he had misspoke, and that "he only supports Justice Department background checks 'that are already required that are not necessarily done.'"

If House Democrats can unanimously rally around the bill (which is not a safe bet), 17 Republicans would need to be convinced for the measure to pass. There are more than 55 Republicans representing the six states that have 90% or higher support for the measure (not including John Boehner, who's presumably already a no vote). If 17 or more of those Republicans can be swayed, universal background checks may have a fighting chance at becoming law.