Safety at public events is more important than freedom to tote weapons for Virginians, VCU survey finds

Most Virginians are willing to let law enforcement restrict weapons at public events to better ensure safety, according to a new survey by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

Seventy-five percent of adults favor letting authorities remove objects from events if they could be used as weapons while 21 percent prefer that officials “maintain the freedoms of those assembling,” including bringing objects that could be used as weapons. 

Four percent said they didn’t know which they preferred.

VCU released the results of the survey today, a day before the one-year anniversary of the fatal Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

“Local authorities, including those in Charlottesville a year ago, and again this weekend on the anniversary of the violent demonstrations, face continual challenges to find the right balance between public safety and maintaining constitutional freedoms to assemble, protest and bear arms,” wrote Robyn McDougle, director of the Wilder School’s Center for Public Policy and an associate professor of criminal justice.

Younger people, the survey found, think protecting individual freedom is most important. But only 9 percent of people older than 65 thought those freedoms are more important than public safety.

In each demographic the survey analyzed — regardless of age, gender, income, political party affiliation or location — more than 60 percent of those surveyed favored maintaining public safety over individual freedoms regarding weapons.

The poll, a random sample of 802 adults in Virginia conducted by landline and cell telephone from July
10-30, has a margin of error of 3.49 percentage points.

It also found that 85 percent of Virginians strongly or somewhat agree that local authorities should be able to remove a person’s personal firearms for up to one year if a court hearing finds that they have exhibited dangerous behaviors to themselves or others.