Poll: PA voters back new gun laws

WASHINGTON -- As VP Joe Biden prepares for a trip to Philadelphia to push President Obama’s proposals for new gun laws, a new poll shows that most Pennsylvania voters favor new restrictions on firearms.

The Franklin and Marshall College Poll found that 43 percent of registered voters in the state strongly favor “creating more laws that regulate gun ownership” and 15 percent somewhat favor such measures. That’s compared to 28 percent who strongly oppose new regulations and 10 percent who somewhat oppose them.

Those numbers show an overall tilt in favor of tougher restrictions on guns, but are not much different from the poll’s historical findings.

The Franklin and Marshall poll comes about a week after a Quinnipiac University survey also found that Pennsylvania voters support new gun laws.

The survey also found that 94 percent of registered voters favor background checks on all gun sales, while 61 percent back banning assault weapons and 61 percent favor banning high-capacity gun magazines.

Those numbers reflect the political reality in Washington: the push for universal background checks appears to have the best chance of becoming law. The assault weapons ban is seen as unlikely to win enough support. Banning clips that hold 10 or more rounds falls into a middle ground in terms of its political viability.

The issue has split lawmakers from the Philadelphia area. Democrats strongly favor new gun laws, but Republicans have been tentative. Congressmen Mike Fitzpatrick, from Bucks County, and Pat Meehan, from Delaware County, both Republicans, have said they favor laws that try to keep guns out of criminals’ hands -- such as strengthening the background check system or increasing penalties for trafficking -- but have not taken firm stands on the proposals on assault weapons or clips.

The state’s Senators are split, too. Democrat Bob Casey has changed his stance and now favors bans on assault weapons and high-capacity clips. Republican Pat Toomey has expressed some openness to Obama’s proposals, and gun-control advocates believe they might be able to persuade him to back tougher background checks, though it seems unlikely that he would support the other proposals. He has not made a detailed statement on his position.

The survey also took a look at Casey and Toomey’s approval ratings. Voters approve of Casey 40-24, with 16 percent undecided. Toomey won 26 percent approval to 20 percent disapproval, with 16 percent undecided.

The poll surveyed 622 registered voters and has a 3.9 percent margin of error.