RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginians overwhelmingly support requiring background checks on buyers at gun shows and posting armed police officers in public school buildings after last month's Connecticut school shooting, according to a statewide poll released Thursday.
But Quinnipiac University's survey also shows Virginians divided on the issue of gun ownership. Half of the 1,134 registered voters surveyed Jan. 4-7 said guns protect people from criminals, while 41 percent said guns put them more at risk.
The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
The survey is the first to explore attitudes about guns in Virginia since last month's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 26 people dead, including 20 children. The massacre was the second-worst mass shooting in U.S. history, ranking only behind the 2007 Virginia Tech attack in which a gunman killed 32 people.
The poll paid particular attention to Virginia's "gun show loophole."
Virginia requires licensed firearm dealers to check the backgrounds of all buyers, but the law does not apply to purchases at gun shows — large, private weapons bazaars. A Republican legislature has perennially rebuffed efforts to close the loophole.
The Quinnipiac poll, however, found 92 percent of those surveyed favored gun show background checks.
Senate Democrats have sponsored two bills that would require gun vendors to conduct background checks at private shows. Both await action by the 2013 General Assembly, which convened its 46-day session Wednesday. The bills have been assigned to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.
When asked whether Virginia's gun-control laws should be stricter or more lenient, 49 percent of those surveyed favored tighter control of guns, 6 percent said they should be less stringent, and 42 percent felt they should remain the same.
Two-thirds of the respondents supported posting police officers in schools. And three out of every five supported limiting gun purchases to one per month, one year after the legislature repealed just such a law that had been on the books since 1993.