North Carolinians say they want stricter gun laws amid heightened fear of gun violence

Published June 16, 2022


Most North Carolinians want lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws, according to a WRAL News survey of adults. They also fear they or a family member may become a victim of a mass shooting.

The push for increased restrictions comes weeks after a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 elementary school students and two teachers were killed.

WRAL News, in partnership with SurveyUSA, polled 1,100 adults across the statebetween June 8 and 12. It reported a credibility interval ranging from 3.2 to 3.8 percentage points.

To address gun violence, 62% of respondents said they want stricter gun laws. One in four North Carolinians surveyed would rather things stay the same, while less than one-tenth want fewer restrictions.

The poll also found 51% of North Carolinians at least somewhat concerned about themselves or loved ones becoming mass shooting victims. Meanwhile, 43% were either not very worried or not at all worried and 5% were unsure.

Jose Urquijo, a Cary gun owner and Republican voter, said he fears for the safety of his daughter, who he said was planning to be a teacher.

“I am very worried,” Urquijo said. “My daughter is going to be a teacher. My wife was a teacher. Mass shootings have to stop.”

Data from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit data collection group that tracks gun violence incidents, identified seven deaths and 30 injuries from eight mass shootings in North Carolina this year.

Democrats were likelier than Republicans to fear for the safety of themselves and their family. Two-thirds of Democrats and two-fifths of Republicans were at least somewhat worried. Overall, 43% of respondents said they were either not very worried or not at all worried.

“We have more guns in this country than people,” said state Rep. Marcia Morey

a Durham County Democrat who has pushed for increased gun control measures in the state. “The fear is there.”
The online survey of 1,100 adults in the state was done in partnership with SurveyUSA between June 8 and 12. It reported a credibility interval ranging from 3.2 to 3.8 percentage points.

The poll showed overwhelming support for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, limits to the amount of rounds a weapon can hold, raising the minimum age of assault weapon ownership from 18 to 21, universal background checks and gun confiscation when family members or law enforcement officers prove to a judge that a gun owner poses a significant threat to themselves or others.

Ken Alper, president of SurveyUSA, said voter attitudes haven’t resulted in meaningful gun law changes in recent history because people might not necessarily cast a ballot based on their gun views. As a result, policymakers could have less incentive to act.

“When it comes down to it, they know that we may not be willing to vote specifically on those issues,” Alper said. “They may be important to us, but we might have a hundred different things that are in our heads when we're deciding who to vote for.”

A New York Times analysis found voters’ gun control views aren’t reflective of how they’d vote on gun policy initiatives.

On Sunday, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, including Republican Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, unveiled a framework for stricter gun legislation. While it’s not nearly as sweeping as top Democrats and gun control groups would’ve liked, it would address a number of issues.

The proposal includes more comprehensive background checks for prospective gun owners below the age of 21, stronger protections for domestic abuse victims, increased access to mental health and suicide prevention programs and more funding for school violence prevention efforts and student supportive services.

Neither Burr nor Tillis responded to requests for comment on WRAL’s poll and policies not included in their existing legislative framework.

On Monday, Tillis and a group of fellow Republicans proposed a separate bill that would increase penalties for felons who illegally possess or use firearms. Among the provisions, the measure would set a minimum five-year sentence for illegally possessing a gun.

“Finding commonsense solutions to reduce gun violence starts with preventing dangerous, violent felons from illegally possessing a firearm,” Tillis wrote in a news release.

North Carolinians cite mental health issues as the biggest driver of mass shootings, followed by lack of security in places where shootings have happened, easy access to guns and ammunition and the spread of extremist views online.

One-third of Republicans and one-quarter of Democrats and independents thought violence in games, movies and music were major factors to blame for mass shootings. A plurality of Democrats and independents viewed inflammatory rhetoric from politicians as a major factor, while a plurality of Republicans thought such rhetoric was a minor factor.

“At this point, it’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Shanae Auguste, a Raleigh resident and registered Democrat who said she’s known gun violence victims. “You can almost set your watch to whenever there’s going to be a mass shooting. It’s that common now.”

Nearly half of North Carolinians surveyed by WRAL said gun manufacturers should be protected from lawsuits related to gun deaths, while less than one in three said manufacturers should be able to get sued.

Democrats and Republicans were divided on the issue, however. While 70% of Republicans thought manufacturers should be protected from lawsuits, 32% of Democrats felt similarly. Half of Democrats said the companies should be allowed to be sued, compared to 16% of Republicans.

Gun owners who don’t properly secure their firearms faced more scrutiny among residents, with 44% saying the owner should be held responsible for the shooting and 33% saying the owner shouldn’t.