Pennsylvania has long been known as a gun-friendly state. But that doesn’t mean voters here are opposed to all gun safety measures, such as strengthening background checks or requiring people to get a permit to buy firearms.
“The vast majority of Pennsylvanians of all political persuasions support gun safety,” said Adam Garber, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group CeaseFire PA.
Here’s where Pennsylvanians stand on proposals to regulate guns, according to recent polls:
The big picture
The most recent public opinion survey to measure Pennsylvanians’ views on gun safety was commissioned by the Giffords organization in April, Garber said.
In that poll of 664 Keystone State voters, 55% of respondents said they believe federal gun laws should be “stronger,” while 15% said they should be “less strong,” and 27% said they should stay the same.
Asked how important “doing more to prevent gun violence” was, 21% of respondents said it was the “most important issue,” while 45% said it was “a very important issue.” Only 14% said it was “not that important.”
The survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling, included respondents from both parties, with 48% saying they voted for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, and 47% saying they voted for former President Donald Trump.
Support for gun-control measures is even higher when pollsters ask respondents about specific policy proposals.
In a February 2021 survey by the PA Safety Alliance, 73% of Pennsylvanians said they were supportive of requiring a permit to purchase a firearm, and 68% were supportive of requiring fingerprints to get permits.
In the Giffords poll, 83% of Pennsylvanians said they support background checks on all gun purchases, while 11% said they opposed them. Background checks are currently required for many firearms purchases, but there are significant loopholes in the screening system, such as purchases completed at out-of-state gun shows.
Despite the political impasse in Washington, addressing gun violence through firearms regulations may be becoming a more politically salient issue.
In 2019, the Republican Main Street Partnership surveyed 500 women in five of the nation’s most competitive congressional districts, including the Bucks County-based 1st District in Pennsylvania, and found growing support for gun control, WHYY reported.
In that poll, 30% of respondents said “working to prevent gun violence” was their No. 1 issue, the highest level of interest of any policy area included in the survey, and 72% said they think gun laws should be stronger.
Sixty-four percent of the women surveyed said they’d be more likely to vote for Republicans if they supported gun-control measures.
Similarly, the Giffords poll found that 64% of Pennsylvania voters said they would be more likely to support a U.S. Senate candidate who supported universal background checks if that person were running against a candidate who opposed them. Only 10% said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who opposed checks, while 22% said it would not affect their vote.