NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Gun control laws remain popular among Tennesseans, a new Vanderbilt poll reflects.

In its semiannual statewide survey, the Vanderbilt Poll measured significant bipartisan support for various gun regulations, basic protections for abortion access as well as health care access for the LGBTQ community. The survey was conducted April 19–23 among 1,003 registered Tennessee voters.

On gun issues, the majority of Tennesseans still favor passing “red flag” laws, safe storage laws and banning assault-style weapons, and Tennesseans of all political parties support Gov. Bill Lee’s April 11 executive order strengthening background checks for firearm purchases.

Overall, 82% of Tennesseans support the executive order, while just 10% oppose it. Self-described MAGA Republicans support the measure 72%, while 81% of non-MAGA Republicans support it. Democrats also heavily favor the action, with 91%, and 78% of Independents support the EO. The order is also supported by those who strongly favor or somewhat favor the National Rifle Association, the poll said, with 74% and 77%, respectively, in support.

An overwhelming majority of registered voters also support a so-called “red flag” law that would temporarily restrict access to guns for individuals who are at a high risk of harming themselves or others. Such a law would likely be the focus of the special legislative session called for by Lee

To better understand how opinions are influenced by the March shooting at The Covenant School, the Vanderbilt Poll posed questions about gun laws in two ways—one that tied support of a restriction to “preventing school shootings” and another to more generally “preventing gun-related violence.”

Seventy-two percent of registered voters support a red flag law to prevent general gun-related violence. Support increases to 75% when the question associated the law with preventing school shootings. 

“It’s not surprising that support for a red flag law in Tennessee increases when preventing school shootings is mentioned. However, that the baseline of support for such a law only trails by 3 percentage points is an indicator that this support is not a flash in the pan because of The Covenant School shooting,” Vanderbilt Poll Co-Director John Geer said. “This close trend is seen with other proposed gun regulations as well.”

Approximately 2 out of 3 of all respondents (67% to prevent school shootings; 64% to prevent gun-related violence) support laws that would require gun owners to securely store their firearms to protect against unauthorized access or else face penalties. Support is again bipartisan, with 54% of all Republicans, 68% of Independents and 91% of Democrats in favor. 

“Guns are a chief concern among Democrats, but there is wide agreement between the most liberal and most conservative voters in the state on support for the red flag laws that the governor has talked about,” Poll Co-Director Josh Clinton said. “There is strong support for action even from MAGA Republicans and strong supporters of the NRA.”

Opinions diverge more about banning assault-style weapons. In the context of school shootings, 50% of registered voters support such a ban, with 42% opposing. The issue cuts deeply across party lines, with 91% support among Democrats, 49% of Independents, 31% of non-MAGA Republicans and 17% of MAGA Republicans.

Additional insights

  • A plurality (46%) of registered voters have a very or somewhat favorable view of the NRA, while 41% have an unfavorable view.
  • A plurality (44%) of registered voters have a very or somewhat favorable view of Planned Parenthood, with 37% holding an unfavorable view.
  • A plurality (49%) of registered voters disagree with the expulsion of two Democratic lawmakers from the Tennessee State House, including a majority of Democrats (93%) and Independents (54%). Only 13% of MAGA Republicans and 22% of non-MAGA Republicans disagree with the expulsion.