The Bulletin

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

By: - August 10, 2018 10:03 am

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.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Mechelle Hankerson
Mechelle Hankerson

Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach. Mechelle was with the Virginia Mercury until January 3rd, 2019.