Vanderbilt Poll on guns finds agreement, except on assault weapons


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On the surface, the public might appear divided. But dig deeper, and the numbers don’t lie. News 2 spoke with a researcher to learn what Tennesseans truly believe about guns.

Elementary school children running from gunfire, memorials outside the school, after The Covenant School shooting, talk of red-flag laws took center stage. And for the first time ever, Researcher and Political Science Professor John Geer added the question to the Vanderbilt Poll.

“It didn’t matter whether you were a Democrat or a Republican, Independent, big supporter of the NRA, there was a big support for these red flag laws. And you can deny it, but it’s true,” said Geer.

A red-flag law temporarily takes a gun away from a person who has the potential to harm themselves or others. 72% of registered voters support a red-flag law to prevent gun violence. That number bumps up three points when the question is applied to school shootings. Even among NRA supporters, red-flag laws received a large endorsement.

“Took people who were strongest approval of the NRA – that is their core support – and they too favored the red-gun laws at over 70% – that’s huge…there’s a lot of agreement.”

The Vanderbilt Poll also found broad support for Governor Bill Lee’s executive order. Across all parties, 82% of Tennesseans want to see stronger background checks when buying a gun. Here’s the political breakdown: 91% of Democrats; 78% of Independents; 81% non-MAGA Republicans; 72% of MAGA Republicans.

“Bill Lee’s executive order has a huge amount of support in the state.”

But, political lines are drawn in the sand when it comes to banning assault weapons. With Democrats, 91% support a ban, but ask Independents, and it drops to 49% support. And with Republicans, that support dwindles. Non-MAGA Republicans – 31% support; MAGA Republicans – 17%.

“Americans don’t like banning anything. That’s part of what’s going on. But again, there are big partisan divisions there—Democrats like the idea, Republicans dislike the idea. The polarization returns on that issue.”

Geer said this nuance is exactly why polling matters in a democracy. “The public has decent sensibilities, and we should never forget that.”

The Vanderbilt Poll is done twice a year. This year’s happened to be three weeks after the Covenant shooting.

Proposals for tougher gun control have brought strong opinions and polarizing viewpoints from state lawmakers. News 2 explores what the people of Tennessee think in a special Voices of Tennessee report.

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