Photos: Gage Skidmore and Dan Sears
The vast majority of working law enforcement officers in the United States support the Second Amendment right to bear arms and plan to vote for presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney this fall. That's the findings of a survey conducted by POLICE Magazine this summer.
A total of 19,000 subscribers to the PoliceMag.com e-newsletter On-Target were given the opportunity to participate in a survey covering gun control, politics, and police operations. Of that base number, 2,387 responded, a total response of 12.6%. Of the respondents, 74% were active sworn law enforcement, 15% were retired sworn law enforcement, and 11% were not law enforcement officers.
Respondents showed little or no support for increased government restrictions on gun ownership. Only 10% of respondents said they believe stricter laws on handgun ownership would increase or enhance public safety.
"Assault weapons" were another story. While the vast majority of respondents, 79%, opposed restrictions on "assault weapon" ownership, 21% believed tighter control of these firearms would increase or enhance public safety. That means that more than twice the number of respondents supported control of "assault weapons" than support control of handguns. The survey did not provide a definition for "assault weapons."
Concealed carry for civilians drew almost unanimous support from the respondents. A whopping 94% said they support civilian concealed carry laws. In a follow-up question, 82.4% said they support expanding concealed carry to more places.
Asked where concealed carry should be restricted and given a list of possible locations from which to choose, 51% of respondents said private property owners should have the right to prohibit carry on their property. Another 32% said that carry should not be prohibited in any location, including churches or schools. In the wake of the Aurora, Colo., "Dark Knight" massacre only 10% of respondents said that carry should be prohibited in movie theaters.
Bulk ammunition sales on the Internet were one gun control issue that appeared to concern many officers following the Aurora shootings. Some 35% of respondents disapproved of bulk sales of ammo via the Web. Respondents were split almost 50-50 on whether large purchases of ammo should be tracked by law enforcement.
The good news on the active shooter front is that this concern is front and center on the radar screens of police brass. A full 87% of respondents said their agencies have held active shooter response exercises. Maybe that’s why 73% of respondents said their agencies are prepared to respond to an active shooter incident.
Individual officers are also concerned about active shooter attacks, even to the point of personally paying for gear that can be used for responding to such attacks. A full 63% of respondents said they have paid for ammunition, weapons, armor, or other gear intended for active shooter response out of their own pockets.
A follow-up question asked respondents what measures would likely prevent mass shootings in public places. The number one answer was more concealed carry at 62.8%. Other popular answers included armed guards, 30.9%, and metal detectors, 26.6%. Note: Respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer.
As in our previous presidential election poll in 2008, the vast majority of respondents tended to be conservative. Only 10% of respondents support Democrat Barack Obama's bid for re-election.
That would seem like good news for Republican contender Mitt Romney, but it's not really. While 76% of respondents said they would support Romney in November, 14% said they would choose other candidates, including Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Romney's big problem with the law enforcement audience appears to be likeability. Asked why they were supporting Barack Obama, 51% of the small segment of officers who plan to vote for the president chose "I don't like Mitt Romney" as the reason.
Conservatives also indicated their vote for Romney was more about their disapproval for Obama than any actual fondness for Romney. Only four respondents, or 0.2% of the Romney supporters, selected "I like him personally" as the reason that they plan to choose the former Massachusetts governor in November. The number one answer Romney supporters chose for voting Republican in the upcoming election was "I oppose Obama's policies" at 67%.
Note: The POLICE Magazine survey was conducted prior to Romney's selection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his vice presidential running mate.
To get a better feel for the issues that most concern law enforcement officers in this election, the editors of POLICE Magazine asked respondents to rank a given set of issues in order of importance. Seven issues were provided in the survey. Number one at 76.25% was the economy. Despite their overwhelming support for the Second Amendment right to bear arms, respondents indicated that they were least concerned about the potential restriction of firearms and ammunition sales. This is likely due to the fact that neither party has made increased gun control a platform issue.
As noted above, respondents chose the economy as their primary concern in the upcoming election. And with good reason; a whopping 41% of respondents said governments (city, county, state) served by their agencies are in "financial trouble."
Financial difficulties facing their agencies have affected officers in two ways: worries about employment and benefits and diminished resources for carrying out their mission. A staggering 70% of respondents said that the economy has them "worried about the stability" of their retirement benefits. Even more concerning is the fact that 50% of respondents said that "budget cuts have adversely affected" their ability to do their jobs.
Survey: Gun Control, Active Shooters, and the Election
Can You Prevent Mass Shootings?