Missourians are worried about shootings and support beefing up school security, poll finds

JEFFERSON CITY — Missourians are worried about the possibility of mass shootings in their communities and support a variety of increased security measures for schools, a poll conducted by St. Louis University and YouGov found.

The poll, released Thursday, surveyed 900 likely voters across Missouri and also found continued support among voters for certain regulations on firearms, including universal background checks and a 21-year-old age threshold to purchase guns, despite repeated refusal by the state legislature to address and implement such laws.

"Missouri voters are at least somewhat or very worried about school safety in Missouri public schools," said Steve Rogers, an associate professor of political science at SLU.

Asked how worried they were "about the possibility of a shooting ever happening ... in your local public school," 75% of those surveyed answered either "slightly worried" (37%), "somewhat worried" (26%) or "very worried" (12%). Concern worsened when the question was broadened to include public schools "across Missouri," with just 7% of of respondents saying they were "not worried."

About 30 people marched around the Park Central Square Friday evening demanding "common-sense gun laws" during a March for Our Lives protest on Friday, June 10, 2022.
About 30 people marched around the Park Central Square Friday evening demanding "common-sense gun laws" during a March for Our Lives protest on Friday, June 10, 2022.

Segments of those surveyed also expressed concern about shootings at their grocery stores (70% answered either "slightly," "somewhat" or "very worried") and places of worship (48%), but schools remained the center of fears. The results come months after a school shooting in St. Louis killed a teacher and student and amid near-daily shootings across the United States thus far in 2023.

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Pollsters asked about a variety of proposed measures aimed at securing schools, which some districts have already implemented:

  • 77% said they were in favor of requiring schools to have a police officer, or school resource officer, on campus;

  • 83% approved of requiring cameras and video security, and 63% favored requiring metal detectors;

  • 67% approved of requiring visitors to schools to receive pre-approval before visiting.

Other policies found mixed reception: 48% of respondents said they were in favor of allowing teachers and administrators to carry guns, with 37% opposed and 16% not sure. Required mental health screenings of students received 43% approval, 33% opposition and 22% unsure.

In the months since the St. Louis school shooting, elected officials have honed in on investing in beefed-up security for schools. Lawmakers recently passed an emergency spending request that included $20 million for schools to implement security upgrades, and Gov. Mike Parson has proposed an additional $50 million in this year's state budget.

"Metal detectors in schools, security cameras in schools, police officers on campus aren't free," Rogers said. "If we're in a committee meeting, or debating in the hallway, this may give advocates for those policies a little more evidence. Like, hey, voters actually want this thing."

Broad majorities support 'red flag' laws, other gun regulations

Voters were also polled on a suite of gun regulations, some of which earned wide support from respondents of different political stripes:

  • 79% support requiring criminal background checks for all gun purchases, and 69% support requiring mental health background checks;

  • 69% support requiring a person to be 21 years old before buying a gun;

  • 60% support a 72-hour waiting period between buying and receiving the gun;

  • 60% support a "red flag" law that would allow a court to temporarily remove a gun from a person they believe to pose a danger to themselves and others.

"There is bipartisan support, even across independents, for making getting a gun a little bit more difficult," Rogers said.

Universal background checks for gun buyers were also widely popular among a smaller sample in a poll last August, with 76% of respondents supporting them.

But respondents soundly rejected a range of proposals that would ban the sale of handguns, hunting rifles or semi-automatic weapons entirely.

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That gradient apparent in the poll results provides a strong contrast to Missouri's Republican-led legislature, which has declined to pass or even consider a range of proposals that earned majority approval in the poll. Missouri has some of the loosest gun laws in the country; earlier this year, language that would have banned minors from carrying firearms in public spaces was stripped out of a legislative package aimed at public safety.

"These results kind of illustrate that voters may be a little bit more sympathetic to the arguments that we want guns to be legal, but we may want to make it a little harder to acquire one," Rogers said.

Galen Bacharier covers Missouri politics & government for the News-Leader. Contact him at gbacharier@news-leader.com or on Twitter @galenbacharier.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Missourians worry about shootings and want safer schools, poll finds