When Tennessee residents last were asked about laws for firearm sales — in the spring of 2011 after the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — 43 percent said the laws should be kept as they are, according to statewide polling data from Middle Tennessee State University.
The MTSU Poll question asking whether “… laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are …” also found that 41 percent said they should be more strict.
Only 12 percent said the laws should be less strict. The remaining 4 percent said they didn’t know or refused to answer the question.
Compared to responses to the same question in the fall 2010 MTSU Poll, which was conducted before the Giffords shooting, this was a slight increase in those who said that laws covering firearms sales should stay the same (39 percent) and those who said they should be less strict (9 percent).
It was a slight decrease in the number who said they should be more strict (48 percent).
These differences, however, were within the two polls’ margins of error.
Around the same time the spring 2011 MTSU Poll was conducted, the same question about firearms laws was asked of a nationwide sample for an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Nationally, a 52 percent majority said that laws covering the sale of firearms should be more strict. Thirty-seven percent said the laws should be kept as they are now, and 10 percent said they should be less strict.
NBC News and The Wall Street Journal asked the American public this question again in mid-January 2013, just a few weeks after the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting.
The poll found that the number calling for more strict firearms laws had increased to 56 percent, while those favoring status quo or less strict had declined to 35 percent and 7 percent, respectively. These differences also were within the two polls’ margins of error.
“The Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting may prove to be a watershed moment, not only for the national debate about guns, but also for public opinion in Tennessee regarding the issue,” said Jason Reineke, associate director of the MTSU Poll.
“If previous findings are a good indicator, we can expect opinions in Tennessee after the tragedy to either hold steady or perhaps even see increases in opposition to additional gun control and consequently diverge further from national opinion as a whole.”
However, previous MTSU Poll results provide a seemingly contradictory indication of where Tennesseans may stand on the ongoing debate over whether state law should require employers to allow employees to keep guns in their cars while at work.
In fall 2009, during another debate about the expansion of places where concealed-carry permit holders should be allowed to take their weapons, the MTSU Poll found that majorities of Tennesseans said permit holders should not be allowed to carry handguns in public parks (54 percent), restaurants (60 percent) or bars (80 percent).
“If Tennesseans think the same way about parking lots where people work as they do public parks, restaurants, or bars, we should expect significant opposition to the proposal to allow guns there,” Reineke said.
For the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll findings, go to http://tinyurl.com/aq35u2v.