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Gun control poll finds many in W.Va. supportive of background checks

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Most state residents would support a law requiring background checks at gun shows, but only about half support laws that would ban high-capacity ammunition magazines or semi-automatic assault rifles, according to the latest edition of The West Virginia Poll.

The poll is a non-partisan study conducted for the Daily Mail by R.L. Repass and Partners. This most recent edition was conducted from June 7-13, sampling 401 voting-age West Virginia residents.

It has a 4.9 percent margin of error.

According to the poll, 75 percent of state residents said they would support a law requiring background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows, while 17 percent said they would oppose such a law.

Although federal laws require licensed gun dealers to perform background checks, whether at brick-and-mortar stores or gun shows, there currently is no such requirement for unlicensed private dealers, who could sell guns from their home, out of the back of a pick-up truck as well as at gun shows, alongside licensed dealers.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has attempted to close that loophole. Earlier this year he and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., co-authored a measure to expand background check requirements. The bipartisan bill appeared to have some chance of passing, at least at first, but Senate Republicans and rural-state Democrats defeated the measure in April.

Manchin communications director Jonathan Kott said Manchin still is talking to his fellow lawmakers about the background check bill, trying to see what "improvements or clarifications" he could make to garner their support for the legislation.

"We would like the bill - to see it come back. We expect that, at some point, it will come back," Kott said.

He said the bill is unlikely to reemerge until senators finish debates over proposed immigration reforms.

While West Virginians widely support broader background check requirements, most do not want heavier restrictions on gun purchases.

Forty-eight percent of survey participants said gun-purchasing regulations should stay the same, while 34 percent supported stricter requirements.

Only 13 percent said gun sale regulations should be less strict, however, and 5 percent had no opinion or weren't sure.

State residents are split on proposed laws to ban semi-automatic assault rifles, one of the often-suggested remedies to curbing gun violence in the United States.

According to the poll, 42 percent of West Virginians said they would oppose an assault weapons ban, while 44 percent said they would support it. Fourteen percent weren't sure.

Banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, another oft-suggested gun control measure, has a little more support among West Virginians.

Although 40 percent said they would oppose banning clips holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, 47 percent of respondents said they would support a ban.

Results of The West Virginia Poll indicate that state residents are significantly more conservative about gun issues, as compared to respondents of a recent nationwide poll.

A Gallup poll conducted in late December 2012, days following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., found that 92 percent of U.S. citizens surveyed supported broader background checks, 62 percent supported a ban on high-capacity magazines and 58 percent believed the United States needed stricter requirements on firearm purchases.

Rex Repass, principal owner of R.L. Repass and Partners, said West Virginia stances on the issues likely are influenced by the hunting culture in the state.

According to The West Virginia Poll, 55 percent of respondents said they keep a firearm in their home.

Nationwide, 43 percent of households have a gun, according to the Gallup poll.

The West Virginia Poll first began in 1980, launched by Ryan-Repass Research along with the Daily Mail, television station WSAZ and The Associated Press.

The poll was conducted a few times each year for two decades, before taking an eight-year hiatus in the early 2000s. The Daily Mail and Repass's new firm, R.L. Repass and Partners, revived The West Virginia Poll before last year's primary election. It is now a registered trademark with U.S. Patent and Trademark office, owned by R.L. Repass and Partners.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or Follow him at


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