New poll finds support for gun control in Republican-led districts

Gov. Ralph Northam, flanked by Attorney General Mark Herring and Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran, said he's convening a special session of the General Assembly to consider a package of gun control legislation following a mass shooting in Virginia Beach. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

 A new poll conducted by a gun control group in Republican-held Virginia legislative districts found that “voters from all persuasions are widely in support of common-sense gun reforms,” including those Democrats will push during a special session to address gun violence next month.

Public Policy Polling, of Raleigh, N.C., on behalf of Brady United, a national organization that advocates for stricter gun control, asked 902 Virginians in key legislative districts about a number of gun control measures.

The respondent pool was divided among the districts of Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, Republican Sens. Tommy Norment of James City County and Bill DeSteph of Virginia Beach as well as Virginia Beach’s Senate District 7, which was previously held by Republican Sen. Frank Wagner, who decided not to run for re-election.

The first question, gauging support for a ban on semiautomatic assault rifles, like the guns used in the Sandy Hook Elementary, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and New Zealand mosque massacres, found that 62 percent supported such a ban, with 34 percent opposed and 4 percent unsure.

The poll also found that 63 percent of respondents (including half of gun owners surveyed) supported a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, like those used in the shooting in Virginia Beach on May 31 that was the deadliest in the country so far this year.

According to Brady’s poll, 83 percent of respondents — including 73 percent of people who voted for President Donald Trump — also support “red flag” or extreme risk laws that would allow someone to ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to guns under certain circumstances.

The organization also highlighted key findings from certain districts, like the 63 percent of respondents in Cox’s district who told the organization they supported a localities’ right to ban guns from public buildings. Among all the people polled, 67 percent favored that proposed legislation.

We have an epidemic of gun violence in Virginia, and regardless of party or political beliefs, voters want to see their elected officials take action, not sides,” Brady President Kris Brown said in a statement.

“When the special session convenes on July 9, Speaker Cox and Leader Norment have a choice – will they stand with their own communities and pass extreme risk laws and assault weapon bans into law? Or will they shun their own voters and retreat to the embrace of the gun lobby?”

Democrats have quickly pivoted to rallying support for the special session and party leaders have planned events around the state to discuss gun violence.

On Friday, Attorney General Mark Herring joined a group of protesters outside the National Rifle Association’s headquarters in Fairfax to “raise awareness and support” for the session, according to a statement.

Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, on behalf Northam’s administration, also began holding roundtable discussions on the “gun violence emergency” on Thursday in Alexandria and was scheduled to hold an event Friday in Fairfax.

The events will continue into next week with stops in Richmond, Fredericksburg and Abingdon. Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine will attend Monday’s events in Richmond and Fredericksburg.