Despite a well-known gun history and culture in the state, Texans support a range of stronger gun laws, from background checks to requiring domestic abusers and stalkers to turn in their guns. As research has shown in other red and purple states, voters fundamentally believe that protecting people from violence and protecting their right to own a gun are not mutually exclusive goals, with 76 percent saying it is possible to do both in Texas.
There is room in Texas for positive change. Moderate reforms are as popular here as they are elsewhere and the association with efforts to reduce gun violence is not fatal electorally.
Moreover, looking at some specific subgroups, particularly in the Hispanic community, efforts to reduce gun violence can confer a political advantage on public leaders who focus on what real voters are saying in this and other research.
On behalf of Americans for Responsible Solutions, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research conducted a survey among 1000 likely 2016 voters in Texas, including 892 likely 2014 voters. The survey was conducted by live professional interviewers between April 21st and 28th, 2014. Fifty percent of all interviews were conducted on a cell phone. The survey was offered in both English and Spanish. The sample is subject to a margin of error of +/-3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval.
Texans Support Background Checks and Prohibiting Access to Domestic Abusers
When given specific reforms, strong majorities of Texas voters support reforms that enforce background checks and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. Support for background checks in Texas (85 percent) is just as strong as it is in other states around the country and garners the support of gun owners (85 percent), NRA members (65 percent) and Republicans (79 percent).
Other restrictions find more mixed results, with bans on assault weapons (50 percent) and high-capacity magazines (48 percent) resulting in near-even support for both sides.
Chart 1: Policy Proposals
Support for laws expanding gun rights also generates mixed results. While 54 percent of Texas voters support allowing those with concealed carry permits to carry their gun openly, this support falls below a majority among women (48 percent) and communities of color (43 percent among Hispanics, 28 percent among African Americans). Majorities of Texans oppose allowing teachers to carry their guns into the classroom (55 percent, including 43 percent strongly opposed) and allowing guns onto college campuses (64 percent, including 47 percent strongly opposed).
Opportunity with Hispanics, Women, and Moms
After voters hear balanced arguments on both sides of the debate over gun laws, they move toward strengthening gun laws. The real news comes at the subgroup level. Women generally move towards strengthening gun laws, especially mothers, who went from favoring stronger gun laws by 5 points to 32 points after balanced messaging. Importantly, in a state whose political competitiveness rises with its proportion of Hispanic voters, there is huge movement in the Hispanic community during this discussion, particularly among Hispanic women.
Chart 2: Hispanic Reaction to Debate
Despite its reputation, Texas does not really distinguish itself from other, conservative-leaning states when it comes to the gun issue. Voters support common-sense changes by overwhelming margins. There does not seem to be a price for raising the issue of gun violence prevention, and there may be a significant upside among women, moms and Hispanic voters.