Gun control has been a hot topic since February when 17 people were killed by an evil man in an attack on a Florida high school. Ever since that attack, a group of students from the targeted school have been demonizing the weapon used by the attacker and the National Rifle Association more than the murderer himself. These students have become media darlings, and their movement to ban the sale of and even confiscate "assault weapons" and "high-capacity" magazines has been endorsed by some high-ranking law enforcement officials, including Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. But POLICE Magazine's research shows that few rank-and-file officers support such restrictions on the Second Amendment.
Last month POLICE Magazine conducted a survey of our readers and asked them a variety of questions about "assault weapons," magazine capacity, Second Amendment rights, their access to patrol rifles, and school shooting response training. You can read our full article in the April issue of POLICE or next week when it posts to PoliceMag.com. But given the amount of coverage about gun control in the mainstream media and the attempts to portray officers as proponents of gun control, we wanted to give you a sneak peek at our findings.
First, a couple of notes.
Note One: Here's our methodology. The survey was sent via e-mail to 42,682 POLICE readers. Of that total, 2,599 responded and 315 were disqualified because they indicated that they were not law enforcement officers. (The other respondents self-identified as LEOs.) That gives us a total respondent population of 2,284 officers for a calculated margin of error of plus or minus 2%.
Note Two: We are using the term "assault weapon" in the April issue article and in this blog. We know that's a term that gun control proponents often use to get the public to confuse civilian semi-automatic rifles with select-fire military weapons for the purpose of making them sound scary. So it's a loaded term. Which is why we use the term in quotes and are defining it in this article and did define it in our survey as a "magazine-fed semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine, pistol grips, and adjustable buttstocks."
According to our results, law enforcement officers overwhelmingly, at 91%, support the right of law-abiding Americans to "buy, own, and transfer" such rifles.
Support for restrictions on magazine size was a little more ambiguous. More than 31% of respondents said "yes" to magazine capacity limits. A follow-up question asked the officers what magazine capacity should be the maximum legal capacity for rifles and pistols. The most popular response was 30 rounds at 30%, followed by more than 50 rounds at 20%. About 16% of respondents to this question said there should be no limit to legal magazine capacity.
The legal age for buying firearms has become part of the gun control debate because the Florida high school shooter was able to legally buy an AR-15 variant rifle at 18. Slightly more than 50% of respondents in our survey said 18-year-olds should be legally permitted to buy firearms. About 42% of respondents would like to see 21 as the minimum age for firearm purchase.
Expanded background checks is another issue that has been raised in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting. This measure has strong support among the readers of POLICE. More than 76% of respondents said they were in favor of expanding background checks for purchasing firearms.
The surveyed officers were split on the need for waiting periods for firearms purchases. A little more than 56% of respondents support waiting periods, while about 44% of respondents said they don't support waiting periods. Of those who support waiting periods for firearms purchases, the most popular waiting periods were three days at 21% and seven days at 15%.