A local gun-control advocacy group on Tuesday released a poll indicating support for new firearms restrictions — findings that opponents quickly dismissed as “meaningless and worthless.”
The poll of 600 state residents was conducted earlier this month by Alison Peters Consulting, which usually works with Democrats. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
The poll found that 76 percent of state residents support tighter gun laws.
Specifically, it found that 66 percent support banning so-called semiautomatic assault weapons, and 87 percent support requiring background checks for all firearm purchases, even from private dealers at gun shows.
Currently, the assault weapons are legal, and private dealers are exempted from required background checks.
Proposals addressing both issues are expected to be introduced in the Legislature this session, spurred in part by the mass shooting in Connecticut last month. But the measures are likely to face stiff resistance from lawmakers who favor gun rights, and legislative leaders have expressed pessimism about reaching agreement on new restrictions.
The board president for Washington Ceasefire, which sponsored the new poll, said the group will use it to push the Legislature to enact stricter laws.
The information will also be useful as the group weighs whether to run an initiative, said the board president, Ralph Fascitelli.
Gun rights advocates noted that in 1997 a gun-control initiative was on the ballot and Washington Ceasefire released polling showing it had support. But the measure, Initiative 676, only got about 30 percent of the vote.
“The problem with these polls is that the devil is always in the details of how the questions are asked,” said Alan Gottlieb of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. “It’s easy for a poll to say anything you want if you use emotional rhetoric.”
Gottlieb called the new poll “meaningless and worthless.”
Phil Watson, who works with several gun rights groups, said polls he has seen indicate much less support for new gun laws. But he declined to release those results, citing policy prohibiting him from releasing internal polling numbers.
National polls have produced varying results on similar questions. A CBS/New York Times poll released last week found that 54 percent of Americans favor stricter gun laws, while a Gallup poll also released last week found just 38 percent do.