Most Texas Voters Support Stricter Gun Laws, New Survey Finds

Texas State Troopers keep watch at the makeshift memorial for victims of the shooting that left a total of 22 people dead at the Cielo Vista Mall WalMart in El Paso, Texas, on August 6, 2019. MARK RALSTON/Getty

A majority of registered voters in Texas support stricter gun control laws, and gun violence ranks as the third-most important problem facing the Lone Star State today, according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

In the statewide survey of registered voters—conducted after a pair of mass shootings in the state during August left dozens dead—more respondents said that gun laws should remain as is than said should be loosened. A 51-percent majority backed tightening gun rules, the survey conducted in October found.

Voters in Texas also feel that gun violence is an especially acute problem. Gun issues were ranked seventh in the share of voters who perceive it as the most important problem facing the country. When considering problems solely facing the state of Texas, gun control and gun violence ranked third.

When the survey queried about specific policies, voters backed popular reforms. Currently, Texas does not require gun purchasers to undergo background checks when engaging in private sales. In the University of Texas survey, 81 percent of voters supported expanding criminal and mental health checks to encompass private sales. Sixty-one percent of voters "strongly" supported this.

Sixty-eight percent of Texas voters indicated support for extreme risk protection orders or "red flag" laws. These laws allow a court to order the temporary confiscation of a resident's firearm, often for a period of up to a year, if they are suspected by a family member or law enforcement of posing a risk to themselves or others.

The margin of error in the survey was measured at 3.6 percent.

Fewer than one in four Texas voters opposed red flag laws on principle. Almost as many voters had no opinion as "strongly" opposed red flag laws.

As the crucible of gun policy freights the national political conversation, individual states are feeling increased pressure to be proactive while Congress takes uncertain steps towards reform.

Even in Texas, Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick sparred with the National Rifle Association over reforming the state's gun laws. While Texas Republicans are among the most outspoken on gun rights, Patrick indicated in a September interview he was "willing to take an arrow" from the NRA to implement universal background checks.

"Like most political gambits, Lt. Gov. Patrick's 'solution' precedes his possession of the facts," the NRA responded.

Majorities of Texas voters also professed support for banning semiautomatic rifles with certain cosmetic features commonly called assault weapons.

Attitudes towards tightening gun laws more generally have not substantially changed among Texas voters since an earlier February survey from the University of Texas asked similar questions. However, it appears that massacres in El Paso and Odessa have not had enduring, significant impacts on voters' preexisting beliefs.

And notwithstanding support for some moderate, limited reforms to gun laws, a plurality of Texas voters—at 43 percent—have a favorable opinion of the NRA. Thirty-six percent of voters in Texas view the NRA unfavorably.