Texans, unlike their elected leaders, want stricter gun control

The results of a poll on gun control taken after the shooting in Uvalde might be unexpected, at least if you’re Greg Abbott.

AUSTIN, TX - JUNE 26: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to a crowd at Pan Amer...
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In the wake of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Republican leadership in the state has called for more access to firearms. Its citizens disagree. A new poll conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Politics Project found that the vast majority of Texans support stricter gun control measures, including expanded background checks, red flag laws, and higher age restrictions.

The poll — which included 1,200 registered voters and was taken between June 16 and June 24, nearly a month after the tragic events at Uvalde — found that Texans are far from thrilled with how the state’s Republican leadership under Gov. Greg Abbott has handled gun violence. Barely 1 in 3 Texans approve of Abbott’s handling of the issue, while nearly half of the state disapproves.

At the core of the issue appears to be the fact that Texas residents have a much stronger appetite for gun control measures than the state’s lawmakers are willing to consider. More than half of those polled, 52%, said they believed that gun laws in the state should be more strict than they are currently. Just over 1 in 4 said gun laws should stay the same, while a shrinking 14% said the laws should be less strict than they currently are.

Most gun control measures received majority approval in the polling, with universal background checks receiving the most support. Nearly 80% of Texans would favor expanded background checks for gun buyers. Another 70% backed the idea of raising the age for legally purchasing a firearm to 21, and 2 in 3 supported red flag laws that would allow law enforcement to temporarily take away firearms from people who present a danger to themselves or others.

Other ideas that had more than 50% support included a full-on ban of assault weapons, a ban of high-capacity magazines, and getting rid of the state’s permitless carry law that allows anyone to carry handguns in public without any registration or training required.

The findings of the poll are surprising, to say the least — though perhaps less of a shock when looking at the party breakdown. Democrats overwhelmingly support gun control measures, while conservatives are much more comfortable with the status quo — though 1 in 3 Republican voters does support stricter gun laws in general.

Adding to the complexity is the fact that, while there appears to be a general disdain for how Abbott has done next to nothing about gun violence and an appetite for some new restrictions, the poll found Sen. John Cornyn’s approval rating tanked. Cornyn, who was a part of the bipartisan effort to pass stricter gun control laws in the Senate, now has a 50% disapproval rating, compared to just 24% who approve of him.

Perhaps the lesson from the poll is that while most Texans would tolerate or even back new gun control measures, any politician who passes them may pay a political price for it. Meanwhile, there has been no real penalty for inaction. Maybe if Abbott faces a real challenge, or even defeat, at the hands of Beto O’Rouke in the gubernatorial race this fall, there may be some politicians who finally find the courage to take action on gun violence. Until then, cowardice appears to be incentivized.