Va. poll finds support for armed school officers, gun show checks
Jan 10, 2013 (Richmond Times-Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shootings, a poll of Virginia voters finds strong support for armed police officers in schools, but also indicates overwhelming backing for conducting background checks on buys at gun shows and a desire to limit weapons purchases to one a month.
The Quinnipiac University poll indicates support of 66 percent to 29 percent for an armed officer in every school, while 60-36 percent believe gun purchases should be limited to one per month. Last year, the GOP-controlled General Assembly voted to repeal the state's longstanding ban on purchasing more than one handgun a month.
The greatest disconnect between legislative action and public opinion, however, is on the issue of background checks. According to the poll, Virginians overwhelmingly favor, 92-7, conducting background checks on people who buy guns at gun shows.
Currently, private sellers can sell weapons at gun shows without having to conduct a check of a purchaser; only purchases made from federally licensed dealers at the shows require a background check.
With national and local gun rights groups providing strong lobbying opposition, attempts to close the so-called "gun show loophole" in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 have failed to clear either the Virginia Senate or House. Similar legislation is being proposed this year, but faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled legislature.
Virginians are more evenly split on whether gun ownership protects people from crime, with 50 percent agreeing and 41 percent believing it creates greater risk, according to the poll. And 49 percent believe there should be stricter gun control laws, while 42 percent believe they should remain the same and six percent believe they should be relaxed. In August, 44 percent of voters favored more gun control laws.
"Virginians, by a slight margin, are in favor of more gun control, but they don't seem to fit nicely into either camp in the gun debate following the Newtown school massacre," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"There has been a small increase in the number favoring tougher gun control, but it is not large. Moreover, the idea of stationing armed police in public schools, which many nationally have ridiculed, is favored by two out of three Virginians."
Twenty young school children and six staff members were killed Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The Quinnipiac poll was conducted from January 4-7, surveying 1,134 registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
Virginians also a support on a ban of the sale of assault-style weapons, 58 percent to 39 percent, and would back a ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines by 59 percent to 37 percent -- two issues under consideration by federal lawmakers in the wake of the Newtown shooting.
As in previous polls, Quinnipiac's data suggest that Virginians' opinions on gun control skew by region and population density.
"Voters in rural areas are the least supportive of gun control while suburbanites and city residents are more likely to favor it," said Brown.
Asked about gun control question, 61 percent of urban residents, 49 percent of suburban dwellers and 40 percent of rural Virginians believe laws should be stricter, according to the study.
In other gun issues, those surveyed responded:
--64 percent to 24 percent that if they agreed with a political candidate on other issues, but not on the issue of guns, they could still vote for that candidate;
--66-31 percent opposing allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons in the classroom;
--59-33 percent that the National Rifle Association is more concerned with protecting gun-owners' rights than in protecting gun-makers' profits.
On the topic of the most effective way to prevent mass shootings at schools:
--29 percent say increase government spending on mental health;
--27 percent say increase police presence at schools;
--24 percent say ban assault weapons;
--16 percent say reduce gun violence on television, in movies and video games.
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