By Ben Pershing
The Washington Post
Virginians want armed guards in schools, but they also support some tougher gun laws, a new survey of registered voters finds.
Gun issues have moved to the forefront since last month’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The debate over whether stricter gun control would help prevent such tragedies is raging at the national level, as well as in many state capitals, and Vice President Joe Biden was meeting with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and several other interested groups Thursday.
In Virginia, which has emerged as a swing state in recent years, the views of elected officials and the general public have become increasingly complex, a development confirmed by the latest Quinnipiac University poll.
Putting armed guards in every school — an idea promoted by the NRA but scorned by gun-control advocates — is supported by 66 percent of registered Virginia voters and opposed by 29 percent, according to the poll.
But 60 percent of those polled said people should be limited to buying one handgun a month, a restriction enacted by Virginia in 1993 that was thrown out last year by the General Assembly and Gov. Robert McDonnell (R).
A national ban on assault weapons is backed by 58 percent of Virginia voters, according to the poll, and 59 percent support banning high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The poll found that 49 percent of Virginia voters want stricter gun laws, up from 44 percent in August, and 42 percent want the laws to stay the same. Six percent of those polled said the state’s gun laws should be less strict.
“Virginians, by a slight margin, are in favor of more gun control, but they don’t seem to fit nicely into either camp in the gun debate following the Newtown school massacre,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a news release.
Brown said that “gun control is the ultimate geographic issue.” Stricter gun laws are backed by 61 percent of Virginia’s urban residents, 49 percent of suburbanites and 40 percent of rural voters.
In Richmond, where the General Assembly began its annual session this week, lawmakers have offered bills from both ends of the spectrum, including measures to arm teachers and to close the loophole that allows some sales at gun shows without criminal background checks.
According to Virginia State Police, gun sales in Virginia reached a record high in 2012, and industry sources attributed the increase, in part, to repeal of the one-handgun-a-month law. Gun dealers in the state also reported a big surge in purchases after the Newtown shootings.