PROVIDENCE — Nearly two-thirds of Rhode Islanders want state lawmakers to ban assault weapons such as the AR-15, a new Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll found.
On June 21, Governor Daniel J. McKee signed three bills that limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds, prohibit the open carry of long guns in public, and raise the age from 18 to 21 to buy long guns and ammunition. The House and Senate passed the three gun bills in the wake of a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and a racist shooting in Buffalo, New York.
But the General Assembly did not take up a proposed ban on assault-style weapons, although it was part of a five-bill package of gun legislation that Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, McKee, union leaders, and other state officials advocated for during a State House rally on May 31.
The poll found 64.5 percent of Rhode Islanders think state lawmakers should “vote to ban semi-automatic assault weapons like the AR-15 and AK-47.” A total of 31.5 percent opposed such a ban, and 3.75 percent were undecided, according to the poll.
David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, noted that women were far more supportive of banning assault weapons than men: The poll found 79 percent of women favored such a ban while 19 percent of women opposed it. By contrast, 50 percent of men favored such a ban, while 45 percent opposed it.
Groups such as Moms Demand Action played a prominent role in the push for gun legislation during this year’s General Assembly session.
“Moms are most connected to this issue,” Paleologos said. “They have children in school, there’s the potential for domestic violence, and they suffer the repercussions of gun violence directly or indirectly more than men do.”
The poll found a sharp difference in party support for a ban on assault weapons: 88 percent of Democrats favored such a ban, while just 25 percent of Republicans backed it. And while unaffiliated voters often align with Republicans on issues, this is one area where independents are more closely aligned with Democrats, Paleologos said. The poll found 55 percent of unaffiliated voters support a ban on assault weapons while 39 percent oppose it.
The poll revealed different levels of support in Rhode Island’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts. In the 1st Congressional District, 70 percent favor the ban while 25 oppose it, and in the 2nd Congressional District, 59 percent support the ban while 37 percent oppose it.
US Representative David N. Cicilline, a Democrat who is an outspoken gun control advocate, represents the 1st Congressional District. Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin represents the 2nd Congressional District, but he is not seeking re-election, and a hotly contested race is under way for that open congressional seat.
The poll also found that a higher proportion of Black voters support a ban on assault weapons (77 percent) than Hispanic voters (67 percent) and white voters (64 percent). And it found that the highest level of support for the ban is among voters age 65 and older (75 percent), compared to those age 35 to 44 (57 percent).
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Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.