That’s what Texans appear to be saying about the idea of banning AR-15s and AK-47s, according to a new poll. 50 percent of likely voters told Spectrum News and Siena College they oppose efforts to ban “assault-style” weapons, a term the poll did not define but is generally understood to include the rifles. In contrast, 46 percent said they support a ban. An equal number “strongly” opposed and supported the policy.
Beto O’Rourke (D.) has based much of his campaign against incumbent Governor Greg Abbott (R.) on the need for further gun restrictions in Texas. He is best known for his viral commitment to seize the guns Texans told the pollsters they don’t want to see banned.
“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” O’Rourke said during a September 2019 presidential primary debate. “We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”
“Five of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history have taken place in this state in the last five years on Greg Abbott’s watch,” O’Rourke said in an ad featuring a Uvalde shooting survivor that was posted to his social media on Tuesday. “Those kids were not just up against that gunman and that AR-15 and those high-impact, high-velocity rounds that hit their body; they were up against a governor who would not lift a finger to prevent this from happening.”
The focus on gun control hasn’t benefited O’Rourke much in the polls, though. While the Siena poll found Texans were open to some new gun-control policies, with 85 percent supporting universal background checks, Abbott still holds a substantial lead in the race. Siena found 50 percent of respondents support Abbott while 43 percent support O’Rourke, moving Abbott’s lead in the Real Clear Politics average of the race down slightly to 7.5 percent.
O’Rourke hasn’t become any less brash in his approach either. He has crashed a post-Uvalde press conference to heckle Abbott and cursed out a man for laughing during one of his stump speeches on the topic.
The race’s outcome will provide a good guide for how American gun politics are playing out in the wake of a slew of major recent gun-related events. The Uvalde shooting and the first bipartisan federal gun restrictions in decades, combined with two years of recording setting gun sales and the Supreme Court setting a new standard for reviewing gun laws as it struck down restrictive gun-carry permitting regimes, have injected a lot of uncertainty into how the issue will impact voters’ decisions in November. With O’Rourke running on an aggressive gun-control platform against Abbott, who has signed several reforms that removed gun-carry and ownership restrictions, how the candidates fare may indicate where things have settled after those significant shakeups.
The election results may also provide insight into the politics surrounding AR-15s and AK-47s in particular. O’Rourke wants to confiscate them or, failing that, ban their sale to adults under 21. Abbott has opposed both ideas as unconstitutional. The fight in Texas mirrors the national one, with Democrats recently passing an “assault weapons” ban through the House of Representatives despite opposition from all but two Republicans. The push to ban the popular rifles, estimated to be more than 24.4 million in circulation, has been facing increasing headwinds even as they have been used in recent high-profile mass shootings. If Abbott can hold off O’Rourke, it could pull further wind from the sails of those pursuing a ban.
Another recent poll in the state provides a slightly brighter picture for O’Rourke’s confiscation plan. Support for “a mandatory program where the government would buy back semi-automatic assault-style rifles from citizens who currently own them” was 52 percent in the latest Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler poll. However, respondents were more likely to strongly oppose the idea than strongly support it.
As with the Seina poll, the confiscation scheme was the least popular gun policy polled. The Morning News poll also found 55 percent of Texans support arming teachers, which O’Rourke opposes and Abbott supports. That is in line with Seina, which found support at 53 percent.
Seina’s results on issue importance were also similar to a recent poll from The Texas Tribune and the University of Texas. The Tribune poll found Texans said guns were only the sixth-most-important issue in the race. Siena found it was the fifth behind economic issues, threats to democracy, immigration, and abortion.
All three polls found Abbott maintained a significant lead over O’Rourke.
The Seina poll was conducted among 651 likely voters between September 14th and the 18th.