After two high-profile mass shootings in California, the majority of voters surveyed in a new statewide poll said they are concerned that gun violence will affect them or someone close to them.
The survey also revealed strong political divisions over fears of gun violence among Californians, as well as disproportionate concerns among women, city dwellers and people of color in the state.
Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said they were concerned that they would become a victim of gun violence or that someone close to them would be harmed, and 30% said they were very concerned, according to a survey. UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.
Fear was most prevalent among Democrats, with 78% expressing concern, compared to 61% of unaffiliated independent voters and 36% of Republicans.
The deep political polarization about firearms in the United States “is evident throughout this poll,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies.
“What struck me most had to do with the fear of gun violence affecting their own personal lives. I didn’t expect there would be such a huge partisan division over that,” DiCamillo said. “But the experience is very different. Republicans aren’t nearly as concerned about it as Democrats. And that really aligns with their views on guns in general.”
Black, Asian, Latino and female voters, along with those living in urban and suburban areas, were more likely to report a fear of being personally affected by gun violence than white, male and rural voters, the poll found.
Christian Heyne, vice president of policy and programs at Brady: United Against Gun Violence, called the results “shocking”.
“I don’t think there are people in other industrialized countries around the world who would have a similar rate of fear in the population. And I think that’s because we’re in a unique position where gun violence is a reality, that our laws and access to guns mean that no community can feel safe from gun violence.”
That partisan divide extends to stricter gun control laws to prevent mass shootings. Forty-five percent of voters surveyed said they would help a lot, and 18% said they would help something, while 34% said they wouldn’t help much.
But while 88% of registered Democrats said stricter laws would be somewhat or strongly effective, that share fell to 61% among non-party voters and to 20% for registered Republicans. Of Republicans, 78% said tougher laws wouldn’t help much.
A majority of voters, 58%, said expanding the availability of mental health services would go a long way toward reducing mass shootings, compared to 10% who said it wouldn’t help much. The partisan divide on that was much smaller than on gun regulation.
The poll also found a widespread lack of information on whether the state’s so-called red flag law, which allows police to temporarily take guns away from people who pose a threat to themselves or others, is effective. Forty-one percent of voters said they felt the law was underused, compared to just 6% who said it was overused. But 47% said they didn’t know enough about it to have an opinion.
When asked if it was more important to impose restrictions on gun ownership or to protect Second Amendment rights, 60% of polled voters said they favor stricter gun ownership rules compared to the 34% who considered preserving the right to bear arms more important.
Eighty-six percent of Democrats and 57% of unaffiliated voters thought stronger restrictions on gun ownership were more important than protecting gun rights, compared to 12% of Republicans who thought so.
The numbers follow a golf of deadly gun violence in the state and successive mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay. Those incidents sparked renewed calls among Democrats for tighter restrictions on who can own a firearm in California and spawned a slew of state legislation to address gun violence.
Among the more high-profile bills is one to limit who can get a concealed carry permit in the state and another that would prohibit gun dealers from holding game-style promotional events such as giveaways, raffles, and raffles.
Others include imposing one excise duties on firearms and ammunition to fund violence prevention programs, requiring owners to buy gun liability insurance And ban on the sale of body armor often worn by mass shooters.
But efforts to improve policy may be stymied by the courts, which are still trying to figure out how to interpret a sweeping U.S. Supreme Court ruling against restrictive laws for those seeking concealed-weapon permits.
Second Amendment advocates seized on that ruling to spark a wave of new lawsuits against gun control laws they consider unconstitutional and ineffective in preventing gun violence.
Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said he was not surprised by some of the numbers in the poll that underlined partisan disagreements over firearms.
“But the reality is it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about imposing more gun control or anything like that. We have the 2nd amendment. It’s clearly defined,” Paredes said.
And he added, “There are no more hardcore gun control things (Democrats) can do, because they are already doing it all. And they are sad because they know that many of those laws are going to go away very, very soon.
The Berkeley IGS survey surveyed 7,512 California-registered voters online in English and Spanish from Feb. 14 to Feb. 20. Because the survey results are weighted to match census and voter registration benchmarks, accurate estimates of the margin of error are difficult; however, the results are estimated to have a margin of error of 2 percentage points in either direction for the entire sample.