There are some fairly dramatic divisions among Americans on the major issues of the day, so when more than 90% of the country supports a proposal, it's tempting to think policymakers would take notice.
Take universal background checks for gun purchases, for example. A CBS News poll found 92% of Americans support the idea. A CNN poll found 97% of American women favor the proposal. This week, Quinnipiac polled voters in Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania and found between 92% and 95% backing for expanded background checks and requiring checks on people buying firearms at gun shows. Hell, before the NRA went berserk, even it supported a system of universal background checks.
This is about as close as we get in this country to a national consensus. And yet, the idea still faces stiff resistance from the usual suspects.
Pursuing even the most popular of measures to curb gun violence would be a step toward destroying Americans' liberty, Sen. Orrin Hatch argued Thursday.
[For Hatch, this] is a move toward tyranny.
"That's the way reductions in liberty occur," Hatch told reporters outside the Senate chamber. "When you start saying people all have to sign up for something, and they have a database where they know exactly who's who, and where government can persecute people because of the database, that alarms a lot of people in our country, and it flies in the face of liberty."
Yes, for the senior senator from Utah, background checks could, in his mind, be used as part of a nefarious scheme by the government to persecute citizens. Of course, by Hatch's logic, the United States should not only leave the gun-show loophole intact, it should also eliminate the existing background-check system altogether.
Hatch isn't the only one.
Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sounded very skeptical about the idea because it might interfere with "private sales on Sunday between relatives." This comes a week after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said the gun-show loophole" doesn't exist, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office said the idea is a "thinly-veiled national gun registration scheme" intended to "ensure federal government minders gain every bureaucratic tool they need for full-scale confiscation."
And when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) was asked whether he could envision supporting the universal background checks bill, he responded, "You know, I think video games is [sic] a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people."
It's worth emphasizing that there appears to be some divisions among Republicans on the policy, with some prominent GOP policymakers saying publicly that they're open to the idea and may end up supporting it. But in the face of overwhelming public sentiment, plenty of Republicans have few qualms about rejecting reform, for reasons that range from silly to ridiculous.