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Second Amendment Grassroots Advocates Are More Politically Active Than Their Gun Control Peers

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, January 18 2013

Photo: Courtesy Firearms Policy Coalition

Gun control advocates may be grabbing the headlines, but gun-owning grassroots types are more politically engaged, according to survey data. What's more, a look at the online contact-Congress platform PopVox suggests that they're also more active online.

The strongest evidence of this comes from a survey conducted late last week by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The survey polled 1,502 adults on a variety of gun-control related questions, as well as school safety proposals, and came away with some surprising results.

The survey found that nearly a quarter of those surveyed who favor "gun rights" have donated money to an organization that is taking a position on gun policy, while only five percent of those who want to make gun control a priority have done the same. Meanwhile, 15 percent of those who prioritize gun rights over gun control have contacted a member of Congress on the issue, versus eight percent for those who prioritize gun control. Online 19 percent of the gun rights group have shared their opinions with friends on their social networks versus 15 percent for those who favor gun control.

Anecdotally at least, some of this seems to be reflected on PopVox, which has built a platform to channel the communications between the public and the relevant members of Congress.

Marci Harris, PopVox's CEO, emphasizes that the numbers seen on PopVox cannot be interpreted as a poll of any kind, since the kind of people who provide input on the platform are simply those who are passionate about an issue.

"This is not a read of disinterested opinion, it is a snapshot of those who are engaging," she says.

The Firearms Policy Coalition is one group that's been particularly active. The coalition is made up of Second Amendment advocacy organizations that include the Citizens Committee for the Right to Bear Arms, the Second Amendment Foundation, the Calguns Foundation and the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, an association of gun industry businesses.

The coalition has sponsored a statement on PopVox, apparently, to counter a sponsored set of principles in support of gun control legislation put up by Mayors Against Ilegal Guns, one of the leading gun control groups that's deeply involved in the federal gun control debate led by Mayors Michael Bloomberg of New York City and Thomas Menino of Boston.

Most of the other top bills where lots of people weighed in were also related to gun control and gun safety.

Among others, they include:

Most of the activity related to those bills appears to come in the form of opposition from Second Amendment advocates and the Firearms Policy Coalition.

The activity is worth noting just because the NRA itself has been fairly mute online, going silent every time a mass shooting incident takes place. In contrast, the Firearms Policy Coalition expressly states on its Web page that it wants to use social media to enable the individual voices of gun owners.

"Technology provides an opportunity for gun owners to more easily make their voice heard by policymakers, the media and others within our culture," the group writes on its "About Us," page. "In an age where families connect on Facebook and news breaks first on Twitter, we simply cannot rely on an inefficient, decades-old model of firearms activism and a tired, partisan message."

Harris notes that traffic patterns on the site differ between the two sides. While the platform sees traffic supporting gun control initiatives coming from organizations like Mayors Against Illegal Guns, as well as the more general sources such as Facebook, YouTube and Google, the site has seen an increase in inbound links from gun rights discussion forums and gun-related sites over the last couple of weeks "corresponding to the increased activity on these bills."

The Pew survey puts a lot of what's happening on PopVox in perspective, though. In contrast to the opposition reflected by the engaged, passionate few on the platform, the survey found that 85 percent of Americans are in favor of making private gun sales at gun shows subject to criminal background checks.