Texans Not Eager to Change Gun Laws, UT/Texas Tribune Poll Shows

March 5, 2013

AUSTIN, Texas — Although a large majority of Texans support background checks for all gun purchases, they are not eager to change existing gun laws in Texas, according to a University of Texas at Austin/Texas Tribune poll.

Seventy-eight percent of Texans support requiring criminal and mental health background checks on all gun purchases in the United States, including at gun shows and for private sales. However, 52 percent think that gun control laws should either be left as they are now (36 percent) or made less strict (16 percent). Forty-four percent said gun control laws should be stricter.

The statewide poll, conducted Feb. 15-24, surveyed 1,200 registered Texas voters and had a margin of error of 2.83 percentage points.

When asked whether stricter gun laws would help prevent gun violence, 56 percent said “not much” or “not at all,” while 44 percent said they would help “some” or “a lot.”

“The results illustrate how Texans are both ideologically and literally conservative when it comes to gun ownership and regulation,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas at Austin and a co-director of the poll. “They embrace gun ownership, and a majority seem comfortable with the status quo. The only major exception is that a large majority of Texans, like much of the rest of the country, support criminal and mental health background checks for gun purchases.”

Texans are closely divided on allowing guns on college campuses and allowing more K-12 teachers to carry guns, but they aren't eager to relax concealed handgun license requirements.

Fifty-four percent “strongly” or “somewhat” support allowing K-12 teachers to carry concealed weapons, with 41 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” opposed. Forty-eight percent of Texans expressed support for the right of faculty members, staffers and students to carry concealed weapons on college campuses, with 47 percent expressing opposition.

Although mixed support is shown for expanded concealed carry in educational environments, only 30 percent of Texans support loosening current concealed carry requirements compared with 59 percent who oppose it.

When asked about specific types of weapons, 49 percent of respondents said they oppose a nationwide ban on semi-automatic weapons, with 40 percent indicating support for a ban. Respondents were evenly divided on banning high-capacity magazines or clips that hold many rounds of ammunition, with 46 percent favoring a ban and 45 percent opposing.

"There seems to be a little more openness to specific gun control measures. But Texans have typically supported many of the proposals that score well nationally,” said Daron Shaw, a government professor at UT Austin and co-director of the poll. “Moreover, there seems to be an underlying suspicion that current gun laws haven't been enforced with much enthusiasm or rigor."

Forty-nine percent in the poll indicated a “very” or “somewhat” favorable opinion of the National Rifle Association (NRA), with 32 percent indicating a “very” or “somewhat” unfavorable opinion. Seventy-five percent said neither they nor a family member were NRA members, and 44 percent said that neither they nor a member of the household owned a gun. Forty-three percent indicated household gun ownership.

When asked about the main reason for having a gun in the household, 44 percent said it was for protection, and 13 percent said it was for hunting.

This is the latest in a series of online polls conducted by the Texas Politics Project and The Texas Tribune. Comprehensive poll results, information about methodology and the survey dataset will be available at the Texas Politics Project website later this week. Additional poll results will be released and available at the website throughout the week.

For more information, contact: David Ochsner, College of Liberal Arts, 512 626 0788;  Daron Shaw, Department of Government, College of Liberal Arts, 512-232-7275;  James Henson, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-0090.