Poll finds support for new gun laws rising among Pa. voters after brief decline

An armed police officer is seen in front of Al Noor mosque during Friday prayers on March 22, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. 50 people were killed, and dozens were injured in Christchurch on Friday, March 15 when a gunman opened fire at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques. The attack is the worst mass shooting in New Zealand's history. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Pennsylvanians have strong views on guns, and a new poll finds that support for regulation is growing once more after falling from a five-year high last June.

Forty-six percent of people who responded to a new Franklin & Marshall College poll said they favor creating more laws to regulate gun ownership, according to data released Thursday.

Roughly a quarter, 26 percent, strongly oppose new regulations.

Historical data show that support for regulations have grown over the last five years. In January 2014, 42 percent of F&M survey respondents said they strongly favored new gun regulations — six percentage points lower than today.

However, support for gun control has fallen from its all-time high recorded by F&M in June 2018, when 54 percent of survey respondents said they strongly supported new laws.

The spike could have been the result of the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead.

By March 2018, strong support for gun laws grew to 52 percent — up from 38 percent in September 2017, the last survey conducted before the Parkland shooting.

F&M began polling for its most recent survey on March 18 — just days after a shooting at a New Zealand mosque left more than 50 Muslims dead.

The F&M data show that respondents are likely to feel strongly one way or another about gun control.

Year after year, respondents are more likely to say they “strongly oppose” or “strongly favor” gun control measures than they are to say they “somewhat oppose” or “somewhat favor” them, according to F&M’s historical data.

A slew of gun control regulations currently before the state House and Senate would create new laws to regulate gun ownership.

One gun control activist is optimistic that lawmakers will make progress on at least one of them this year.

Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFire PA, a gun-control advocacy organization, told the Capital-Star last month that she hopes lawmakers will move a bill to create a “red flag law,” which would allow for the confiscation of guns from people deemed to be at risk of harming themselves or others.

A red flag bill advanced through a House committee last year, but never went to the floor for the vote. Goodman thinks bills introduced in the House and Senate could pass this session if they can get out of committee.

Goodman said she is heartened that the Legislature last year passed a bill to tighten regulations around the seizure of firearms from convicted and suspected domestic abusers. It was Pennsylvania’s first substantive action on gun control in recent years.

“We didn’t know we were going to pass the domestic violence bill last year. But its first time through the Senate, the vote was unanimous,” Goodman said. “I feel like we can get to the votes if we can move the bills out of committee and get them on the agenda.”

F&M surveyed 540 registered voters — 254 Democrats, 216 Republicans, and 70 independents — between March 18 and March 24. The sample error is plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.

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