Poll: Utahns overwhelmingly support requiring background checks on all gun sales

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Utahns really want the government to require background checks on all gun sales, a new UtahPolicy.com/Y2 Analytics poll shows.

But whether the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert will do that remains to be seen.

There are currently background checks on gun sales at retail stores and by licensed gun dealers, often at gun shows were firearms are for sale.

But at these same gun shows there are frequently private individuals who sell guns, without such checks. And, of course, there are private person-to-person gun sales, outside of gun shows, where the buyer is not checked against federal and state gun restriction databases.

“We all have a role to play” in reducing deaths in mass shootings, Herbert said after this summer’s gun violence. But it is not clear whether he would push for universal gun purchase background checks.

However, that is exactly what Utahns want, the new poll shows:

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— 88 percent of Utahns “strongly support” or “support” background checks on all gun sales.

— 97 percent of Utahns age 18-34 want checks on all gun sales, while 88 percent of those 65 and older want them.

— Most men want background checks, 82 percent, but more women want them, 96 percent.

The Legislature, which has refused to act in the past on this issue, is overwhelmingly Republican. But those lawmakers don’t have to worry about their voting base on this gun question:

— 80 percent of “strong” Republicans want background checks — with 52 percent of that group saying they “strongly” want such checks on all gun sales.

— 82 percent of political independents want such checks, and 100 percent of Democrats want background checks on all gun sales, the poll shows.

On Wednesday, Herbert’s office sent UtahPolicy.com an email statement about the survey results, reiterating his desire to get something done to curb gun violence.

“Governor Herbert agrees with the majority of Utahns that we need to do something to strengthen background checks to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of those who intend to do innocent people harm. We are also interested in other reforms, and will actively work with state and federal policymakers to enact change,” Herbert’s office said.

While it may not be remembered now, in 1999 a security guard in one of the downtown LDS Church office buildings, and a woman bystander were killed by a shooter who had legally bought a gun — and appeared to have mental issues.

Then-LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, in eulogizing the slain security guard at church’s family history center, wondered out loud how such violence can happen, and whether government officials should take action to stop mentally-troubled folks from getting access to guns.

There was talk then of trying some kind of adequacy test to buy a gun, but nothing ever came of it in the Legislature.

The new survey finds that “very active” Utah members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have made up their minds about universal background gun sales:

— 88 percent support such gun sales checks, with 63 percent of active Mormons “strongly” supporting such checks, and 25 percent “supporting” that law.