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While there are some questions as to what inferences can be made from these findings — such as whether that 90-percent support translates into support for specific legislation — there hasn’t been a definitive debunking of the statistic.

By a vote of 54-46, the Senate failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to advance the legislation. In doing so, the Senate shot down a proposal that had the support of 90 percent of the public, casting doubt on whether any new gun laws will emerge from Congress' most ambitious attempt in 20 years to rein in gun violence.

Manchin's participation in the deal on background checks could bolster the prospects for the legislation. The freshman senator from West Virginia represents a state where gun ownership has long been passionately protected.

"There is still a long road ahead and this bipartisan bill gives us reason to be optimistic," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, adding that "a majority of the components" of the bill were acceptable.

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For example, in 2013, polls found that 90 percent of Americans supported expanded background checks. However, when Congress failed to pass a popular bill that would have increased background checks, 47 percent were disappointed or angry that it failed, while some 39 percent were relieved or very happy, according to a Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll.

Drawbacks with respect to expense and inconvenience notwithstanding, 83% of self-reported gun owners and 87% of the general population endorsed regulation for all private-party gun sales in a 2008 poll that was conducted for the advocacy organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Gun owners gave stronger support to this all-inclusive approach than to a gun-show-only proposal in a 2009 poll conducted for the same organization. Either proposal would face tough sledding on Capitol Hill. It would therefore seem preferable to move forward with the version that is most likely to reduce the rates of firearm-related violence.[13]

Many hurdles remain, including weeks of expected debate in the Senate and amendments that could make the bill unacceptable to some senators who now support it. Any gun-control measure that clears the Senate also is likely to get a cool reception in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

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However, it was the background check amendment that was most crucial to securing passage of the final bill. As currently written, that bill contains a background check provision that's tougher than the Manchin-Toomey amendment, and as such it's not expected to pass.

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The Brady Law mandating background checks for sales by licensed gun dealers wasn’t a mistake. It is a foundation upon which to build a comprehensive system for screening all gun purchasers to prevent the diversion of guns to prohibited persons.   

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The same October CBS/New York Times poll that found 92 percent support for expanded background checks also shows 46 percent of Americans think laws covering gun sales should be either made less strict or stay the same. Just 51 percent said the laws should be made more strict.

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The Manchin-Toomey deal also would create a commission to study the causes of mass violence in the United States, examining images of violence in media and video games as well as issues such as school safety, guns and mental health.

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When criminals get guns, they get them from friends, family, or from an underground market source. Without universal background check requirements, there is little deterrent to selling guns to criminals or gun traffickers. State laws mandating universal background checks deter the diversion of guns to criminals. The most comprehensive screening and background check processes, where potential gun purchasers apply in person for permits to purchase handguns, are associated with lower homicide and suicide rates.

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Pew Research Center poll, conducted July 14-20: Do you favor or oppose "making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks"? Favor: 85 percent. Oppose: 13 percent. Unsure/Refused: 2 percent.

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While Democratic leaders had accepted that the gun legislation may not pass the Senate, today’s series of votes on amendments might help lay the foundation for advancing in the future. Some senators could try to bring up a background-check proposal again, particularly if there is a backlash to the bill’s defeat. [Bloomberg]

In 2017, a study by researchers from Northeastern University and the Harvard School of Public Health showed that 22% of American gun owners who had obtained a gun in the previous two years did not undergo a background check before doing so.[22]

"People don't seem to like the idea of ‘gun control,’ but they still want the government to do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill," said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California Los Angeles and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America.

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More controversial parts of Obama's gun-control plan - such as a ban on rapid-firing "assault" weapons like the one used in Connecticut and limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines - appear to have a slim chance of clearing the Senate.

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This is a bogus argument that has worked extremely well for the gun lobby’s fundraising and been instrumental in its success in fending off common-sense gun laws. Requiring a background check of prospective purchasers does not take away guns from law abiding people, nor does close regulation and oversight of gun dealers.

There is still a chance the background check amendment could come up for a later vote. Reid, who supports the measure, voted no in a parliamentary move that will allow him bring it up for a vote in the future. That should give Manchin and Toomey more time to lobby for support.

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After the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999, gun shows and background checks became a focus of national debate.[6][7][8] In May, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, "We think it is reasonable to provide mandatory, instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show."[9]:118 Those concerned about the shows believed they were a source of illegally trafficked firearms.[10][nb 1] Efforts to reverse a key feature of the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) by requiring criminal background checks and purchase records on private sales at gun shows, which had become prolific in the U.S. since the law's passage in 1986, were unsuccessful.[11][12]

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This highlights an odd discrepancy: While people overwhelmingly support specific gun policy ideas, like universal background checks and banning suspected terrorists from buying guns, the support is not as robust when it comes to actually expanding gun control.

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In November 1998, President Bill Clinton directed the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and the U.S. Attorney General (A.G.) to provide recommendations concerning the fact that 25 percent or more of sellers at gun shows are not required to run background checks on potential buyers. This was called the gun show loophole.[3]:3,12[4][5]:27 Two months later, Gun Shows: Brady Checks and Crime Gun Traces was released.[3] The Secretary and the A.G. made seven recommendations, including expanding the definition of "gun show," and reviewing the definition of "engaged in the business."

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On Thursday, the Senate is scheduled to hold its first vote on whether to take up a gun-control bill. More than a dozen Republican senators have threatened a filibuster aimed at preventing consideration of any gun restrictions.

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Furthermore, he specifically accused the NRA of using its enormous influence to frighten Senators into voting no. "Instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill," he said. "This was a pretty shameful day for Washington."

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Those who oppose universal background checks argue that existing gun laws are sufficient; that the government does not prosecute enough of the attempted buyers who are turned away by the current system; that background checks are an invasion of privacy; that "transfer" might be defined too broadly.[26] Opponents also maintain that universal background checks would not stop crime[26][27] and assert that the only way to properly enforce a universal system would be to require a registration database.[27] Gun-rights advocate and author John Lott argues that universal background checks prevent poorer Americans from acquiring guns. Lott said that, as of December 2015, background checks added an effective cost of $80 (New York), $60 (Washington state), or $200 (Washington, D.C.) to transferring a firearm. Lott argues that universal background checks are an effective tax on guns and can prevent less affluent Americans from purchasing them, and that this disproportionately affects poor minorities who live in high-crime urban areas.[28]

Even so, the proposal for expanded background checks appears to be Obama's best hope for meaningful gun-control legislation in the aftermath of the December massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

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Assault weapon bans curtail sales of a particularly dangerous type of firearm, but it is a stretch to say that such bans leave law abiding citizens defenseless when they can keep assault weapons that they own and can buy a multitude of other firearms provided that they pass a background check.

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The amendment was crafted by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), both of whom enjoy A ratings from the National Rifle Association. The proposal had become the centerpiece of gun control efforts as other proposals faltered. Given their proposal's bipartisan nature and its huge public appeal, it had widely been seen as the most likely amendment to make it into the broader gun bill the Senate is currently discussing.

Following the December 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre there were numerous calls for universal background checks,[14][15][16] to close what is now referred to as the "private sale loophole."[17][18][19] In an essay published in 2013, Wintemute said that comprehensive background checks that included private sales would result in a simple, fair framework for retail firearms commerce.[20]:103 In February 2014, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research reported that after the 2007 repeal in Missouri of a long-standing law that required all handgun buyers to pass a background check there was a 23 percent increase in firearms homicides.[21]

“It’s very hard in our partisan environment to find anything that 80 percent to 90 percent of people support,” Arkadi Gerney, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who formerly ran former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said in a telephone interview Monday.

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