Vanderbilt poll shows support for some gun regs

Gun Rights

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In its semiannual statewide survey, the Vanderbilt Poll measured significant bipartisan support for various gun regulations.

The survey was conducted April 19–23 among 1,003 registered Tennessee voters, according to a written statement.

“It’s hopeful that while 58 percent of respondents view Tennesseans as divided, there is a fairly strong agreement on basic next steps in our most politically divisive issues,” said John Geer, co-director of the Vanderbilt Poll, dean of the College of Arts and Science and professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. “At the same time, 74 percent of registered voters say they’d prefer their elected leaders compromise across the aisle rather than strictly pursue their own values and priorities.”

Since May 2012, the Vanderbilt Poll has asked registered voters to rank what issue should be the Tennessee government’s top priority. For 20 consecutive surveys, guns ranked last or nearly last. This April, it ranked as the third-most important issue, just 2 percentage points behind education and three points behind the economy.

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On April 11, in response to The Covenant School shooting in Nashville, Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order strengthening background checks for firearm purchases. This action is supported by 82 percent of Tennesseans with only 10 percent opposing it. This support carries through key demographics across the state.

Seventy-two percent of self-described MAGA Republicans and 81 percent of non-MAGA Republicans support the governor’s executive order, as do 91 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of Independents, according to the poll. Among those who strongly or somewhat favor the National Rifle Association, support for the executive action is also strong at 74 percent and 77 percent, respectively.

An overwhelming majority of registered voters also support a so-called “red flag” law that would temporarily restrict access to guns for individuals who are at a high risk of harming themselves or others. Such a law would likely be the focus of the special legislative session called for by Lee.

To better understand how opinions are influenced by the March shooting at The Covenant School, the Vanderbilt Poll posed questions about gun laws in two ways—one that tied support of a restriction to “preventing school shootings” and another to more generally “preventing gun-related violence.”

Seventy-two percent of registered voters polled support a red flag law to prevent general gun-related violence. Support increases to 75 percent when the question associated the law with preventing school shootings.

“It’s not surprising that support for a red flag law in Tennessee increases when preventing school shootings is mentioned. However, that the baseline of support for such a law only trails by 3 percentage points is an indicator that this support is not a flash in the pan because of The Covenant School shooting,” Geer said. “This close trend is seen with other proposed gun regulations as well.”

Approximately 2 out of 3 of all respondents (67 percent to prevent school shootings; 64 percent to prevent gun-related violence) support laws that would require gun owners to securely store their firearms to protect against unauthorized access or else face penalties. Support is again bipartisan, with 54 percent of all Republicans, 68 percent of Independents and 91 percent of Democrats in favor, according to information provided by Vanderbilt.

“Guns are a chief concern among Democrats, but there is wide agreement between the most liberal and most conservative voters in the state on support for the red flag laws that the governor has talked about,” said Josh Clinton, co-director of the Vanderbilt Poll. “There is strong support for action even from MAGA Republicans and strong supporters of the NRA.”

Opinions diverge more about banning so-called assault-style weapons. In the context of school shootings, 50 percent of registered voters polled support such a ban, with 42 percent opposing. The issue cuts deeply across party lines, with 91 percent support among Democrats, 49 percent of Independents, 31 percent of non-MAGA Republicans and 17 percent of MAGA Republicans. — Twitter: @DMcGeeBHC | Twitter: @DMcGeeBHC

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