In case you were wondering, the Consumer Federation of America is a lobbying group. It doesn't seem to be a successful one: they have several internet surveys on their site, most with under 10 respondents. Their funding, according to their website, comes from "pro-consumer organizations" rather than actual consumers. Since they have a history of releasing anti-gun "research" I'd say they are a democratic front group, perhaps even one with ties to Nader due to the consumer angle, but that's speculation. All we know is that they've released these three surveys:
So how did they get these results? Simple: they asked whether they supported "bans on military-style firearms like Uzis or AK-47s". As anyone with even a little knowledge of firearms law knows, "military-style" weapons (that is, fully-automatic firearms) are heavily regulated, since 1933, have been banned from manufacture since 1986, have never been used in a crime by a civilian legal owner, and are not affected by the Assault Weapons Ban.
Thanks to the media's confusion about semiautomatic assault weapons versus fully-automatic military assault rifles and the ignorance of the general public regarding firearms law, poorly-designed public opinion polls are often published supporting the ban. In evaluating such a poll, ask yourself:
Obviously, these polls aren't designed to get accurate results, they are designed to produce "support" for the viewpoint of the people who commissioned the poll. Their accuracy is extremely questionable. But enough said on that topic -- why Michigan, South Dakota, and West Virginia?
Michigan and West Viginia are considered swing states. The anti-gun groups are basically trying to tell Bush that letting the assault weapons ban expire may cost him the race in 2004, because of the support for the ban shown in their polls in those two crucial swing states.
Unfortunately, while public confusion about the issue means that the polling shouldn't be considered accurate with regard to the merits of the law, it is more difficult to dismiss the question of public opinion; that is, will voters who think they support the assault weapons ban have their opinion of Bush influenced by whether or not he supports it? And likewise, what about the Senate races? Here are the Senators from those three states, and their votes on the S1805 renewal amendment:
All 6 senators are Democrats. That's odd; I would have expected them to be trying to change the votes of Republican Senators. Only one of the senators on the list did not vote to pass the renewal, so it's not likely to be about their votes. It's probably aimed at Bush. The fact that one of the South Dakota senators abstained despite being democratic may explain why South Dakota is included although it is not on my list of swing states.
It may be worth sending Tim Johnson a note of thanks for his abstention. It's not as good as a no, but it's better than nothing... er, wait, it IS nothing. It's better than I would expect from a Senate Democrat, how's that?