Floridians overwhelmingly desire changes to several gun laws, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, but what they want and what their legislators are willing to do appear to be on different paths.
According to the poll, the most resounding support surrounded the prospect of requiring background checks for all gun purchases (96% in favor) and banning gun ownership for anyone who's been issued a restraining order for stalking or violence (92% in favor).
With March 9, the last day of the state Legislature's session, approaching, lawmakers have tackled gun control measures at a breakneck pace since the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
With students, parents and their supporters canvassing the Capitol over the last week, senators and representatives have demonstrated an openness to enact certain laws, and a staunch reluctance to entertain others.
After each body's appropriations committees met Tuesday, the state House and Senate now have in their hoppers bills that would raise the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21, to allow police to confiscate firearms in the event of threats, to require a waiting period for gun purchases and to create a voluntary program that would arm teachers and other trained faculty.
The committees declined, however, to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and though a move to ban bump stocks didn't make it through Senate Appropriations, the House committee OK'd the measure. The Senate committee also declined to create a firearms registry and to require that only licensed dealers could privately sell firearms, while the House committee decided against requiring mental health background checks for those licensed to carry.
While several citizens spoke in defense of the Second Amendment at Tuesday's hearings, many young people, including students from Parkland, parents and ordinary Floridians pleaded with lawmakers for change.
"We need each of you to step away from politics and reach in as parents and grandparents," said Max Schachter, whose lost his son Alex in the school shooting. "Let's get something done today. ... You owe it to me."
Here is what Schachter and his fellow Floridians want, according to Quinnipiac's survey of 1,156 voters in the state:
Stricter gun laws, period
It's no surprise, but Democrats led the charge here with 87% approving (opposed to 43% of Republicans). Other demographics heavily in favor of stiffer laws include voters under 35 (72%), women (76%), blacks (77%) and Hispanics (73%).
Folks with guns in their homes were slightly in favor (49%, compared to 42% who oppose), while 63% of voters with kids in public school said gun laws should be beefed up.
Background checks for ALL gun buyers
While Florida requires background checks in certain cases, residents want a background check every time. That goes for 96% of voters. No demographic came in lower than 91% on this one.
Nationwide ban on assault weapons
Women (75%), Democrats (86%) and voters older than 64 (76%) were most resoundingly in favor of this measure, while 62% of voters as a whole liked the idea. There was less support among Republicans (40%), white men (44%) and voters with guns in their homes (43%), and parents with kids in public school were only marginally in favor (49% to 46%). Rural residents barely approved it (48% to 47%).
Pollsters registered less support on the matter of banning semiautomatic rifles, with 53% of voters in approval.
Nationwide ban on high-capacity magazines
Like the assault weapons ban, 62% of voters approve a measure to ban clips that hold more than 10 bullets, with Democrats (85%), women (75%), blacks (74%) and seniors (72%) most in favor.
Mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases
This was another popular notion, corralling support among 87% of voters. The lowest level of support came from white men (81%). A mandatory waiting period for assault rifles saw similarly strong, but slightly less, support.
Age restrictions for gun purchases
If someone is going to buy a gun, 78% of Florida voters want them to be 21 years old. Among those showing the strongest support were Democrats (93%), women (88%), voters older than 50 (82%), blacks (88%), Hispanics (81%), suburb dwellers (80%) and parents with kids in public schools (78%).
Allowing police to petition judges to seize guns
This was another strong one, with 89% of those polled saying they're in favor of police petitioning a judge to confiscate weapons from someone deemed at risk for violent behavior. Men (84%) and rural residents (83%) showed the lowest level of support for this measure.
Bans on people with restraining orders
Again, little resistance here, with 92% of voters approving the prospect of banning gun sales to anyone who's been the subject of a restraining order for stalking, domestic or sexual violence or repeated violence. Every demographic registered an approval rating of at least 85%.
Requiring local governments to follow state gun laws
Most Floridians are against local communities enacting gun laws based on community needs, with 56% saying cities and counties should follow state laws. Republicans (71%) showed the highest level of opposition, and voters with guns in their homes came in a close second (69%).
NOT allowing teachers to carry guns
Only 40% of voters felt arming faculty and other school officials on school grounds was a smart idea, while 56% thought otherwise. This was split along party lines, with 72% of Republicans in favor, compared to 11% of Democrats. Aside from the GOP faithful, the other demographics in favor were voters without college degrees (51%), men (59%), residents with guns in their homes (57%) and rural residents (50% to 45%).
A few other poll results:
- 63% of Floridians think it's too easy to buy a gun in the state.
- 34% think Florida would be safer if more people carried guns.
- 51% say increased security is the way to reduce gun violence in schools.
- 39% approve of President Donald Trump's response to the Parkland massacre.
- 16% say Congress is doing enough to thwart gun violence; for the state Legislature, the number is 18%.
- 40% say Trump is doing enough to combat gun violence, 42% say Gov. Rick Scott is doing enough and 22% say the state Legislature is doing enough.
- 35% feel the National Rifle Association supports policies that are "good for Florida."
- 56% say the Parkland shooting has made them more likely to support tougher gun laws.
- 42% worry about being a victim in a mass shooting.
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