Latino voters favor gun restrictions

The grim statistics and on-going stories about children, men and women killed by guns in America have led many to conclude that enough is enough; something must to be done to curb the senseless loss of lives gun violence. That something needs to be done is without controversy as Americans across the ideological divide desire safer communities. The controversy occurs over what needs to be done. The ensuing gun debate pits those who believe that the road to safer communities will come by way of reductions and restrictions against those who believe such efforts will do little to reduce gun-related violence.

Latino Decisions conducted a national survey of the Latino electorate to establish where these voters stand on different gun control policy options under consideration in national, state and local governments. Specifically, these voters were asked if they supported or opposed: (1) requiring background checks before people can buy guns in stores and gun shows; (2) establishing a national database of gun owners; (3) making it illegal for people with documented mental illness to purchase and own guns; (4) limiting the capacity of magazines; (5) a ban on semi-automatic and assault weapons, and (6) allowing teachers. The results clearly indicate the majority of Latino voters hold a consistent set of opinions, supporting proposals that would reduce and restrict guns and ammunition.

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Over half of all Latino voters support all five of the gun control restrictions included in the survey. The majority (57%) also oppose expanding laws to allow teachers or authorized campus personnel to carry loaded weapons in public schools. Policies that emphasize prevention and tracking are the most widely supported. Criminal background checks for potential gun owners is the most popular proposal, with 84% in favor, and a mere 13% opposed. A national database of gun owners is also widely supported by 69% of Latino voters. Another restrictive policy option, banning the mentally ill from owning guns, is supported by 64%. Limits on weapons and ammunition also garner significant support from Latino voters, including 64% in favor of a ban on high capacity magazines, and 54% favoring a ban on semi-automatic and assault weapons. Most Latinos do not want loaded weapons in their public schools, 57% oppose the proposition of allowing teachers and/or security personnel to carry loaded guns on campus.

The current debate over gun control largely falls along partisan lines. On the one hand, Democratic lawmakers, and President Obama, are calling for a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, background checks, and other measures which are outlined by the House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. On the other hand, Republican lawmakers and the NRA are opposed to many of these measures and prefer to focus on deterrence efforts and preventing persons with mental disorders from purchasing guns. Where do Latino attitudes fall along the Democratic and Republican divide?

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In most instances Latino voters are on the same side of these policy issues, regardless of their partisan identification. To put these numbers in sharper context, 50% of Latino voters identify as Democrats, 38% as Independent, and 11% Republican.

The illustration above shows most self-identified Democrats, Independents and Republicans agree on several policy proposals, including background checks, banning mentally ill from owning guns, creating a national gun owner database, and limiting magazine capacity. Latino Democrats and Republicans are also on the same side on the matter of armed school personnel, less than half of Republicans (42%) and Democrats (35%) support the idea, though a very slight majority (51%) of independents are in favor. Banning assault weapons is the only issue where a clear partisan division emerges, with 65% of Democrats in favor, compared to only 41% of Republicans, and a mere 31% of independents

Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on Senator Dianne Feinstein’s efforts to reinstate the ban on assault weapons. Our survey shows that Latinos are not indifferent to these debates. Large numbers are supportive of the Democratic proposals that allow law-abiding Americans access to certain types of guns and rifles. Latinos, like many Democrats, draw the line when it comes to assault weapons and high capacity magazines. A majority favor background checks and the use of a national databank of gun owners. There is little enthusiasm for having armed teachers and security guards in public schools. In short, our results demonstrate that gun violence and gun control matter to Latinos, and we contend the perspectives of the Latino electorate should not be lost on lawmakers tasked with the critical effort to address the tragedies of gun violence in the United States.

About the poll

Latino Decisions interviewed 500 Latino registered voters via landline and mobile phone, across all 50 states, from February 20-28, 2013.  Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, at the preference of the respondent, and all interviewing staff was fully bilingual.  The survey averaged 7 minutes in length and has an overall margin of error or +/- 4.4%.  Complete poll results are posted here. For questions about the results, please contact Adrian Pantoja (adrian.pantoja@latinodecisions.com).

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