Alaskans and guns: New poll looks at local opinions firearms

Alaska is a gun state.

But while Alaskans are top in the nation in gun ownership, Alaskans’ attitudes toward guns and gun control measures are not monolithic, according to a new survey released by a local polling agency.

The “Alaska Attitudes towards Gun Ownership and Regulation” survey, conducted by Alaska Survey Research, found that support for some of the most discussed gun control measures — such as assault weapons bans and the banning of high-capacity magazines — are split, with roughly the same percentage of people for and against each measure.

Other gun control measures, like age-requirements on gun ownership, showed modest support statewide.

The poll surveyed 761 Alaskan adults about gun ownership and their perspectives on potential gun reform measures: whether or not laws covering the sale of firearms should be more or less strict, if there should be a ban on assault weapons, a requirement for individuals to be over 21 to purchase a gun, a ban on high-capacity magazines, legislation that allows family members or police to petition a judge to confiscate a person’s guns, and support or opposition to arming teachers.

Respondents were contacted via cell and landline phones, and questions included a number of demographic indicators, including age, ethnic background, gender, income level and media consumption.

Ivan Moore, Alaska Survey Research owner who has been doing polling research in Alaska for more than two decades, said he was looking to get a clearer picture of Alaskan views on guns, and gain insight on some of the most common gun control reform approaches being discussed nationally in the wake of the February shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.

“This is the first time I’ve asked properly what percentage of people live in households with guns,” he said. “It’s probably the most detailed gun survey I’ve done.”

With a few exceptions, residents of the Kenai Peninsula, showed significantly more conservative attitudes toward gun regulation than in the rest of the state.

Thirty percent of respondents reported living in a household with NRA membership in the Kenai, versus 18 percent in the rest of the state. Two thirds of the Kenai population oppose an assault weapons ban, with approximately 31 percent in support, as opposed to 48 percent of respondents supporting the measure in the rest of the state.

Kenai residents also differ on proposals to ban high-capacity magazines — only 32 percent support the idea, while 49 percent of the rest of the state support the idea.

Kenai residents were slightly less likely than the rest of the state to support measures requiring people to be 21 or older to buy a weapon — with 47 percent supporting and 47 percent opposing the idea. Statewide 67 percent of respondents expressed support.

The study reported the percentage of people who would support allowing teachers to carry guns on campus as significantly higher in the Kenai than elsewhere in the state. Sixty percent of Kenai residents support the idea, compared to 44 percent in the rest of the state. Overall, 45 percent of Alaskans support the idea of arming teachers.

Although gun ownership overall was higher in the Kenai, fewer people reported owning assault weapons, such as AR-15s and AK-47s, than in the rest of the state of Alaska — 13.9 percent on the Kenai versus 16.8 percent in the rest of Alaska. The margin of error, however, makes the difference statistically insignificant, Moore said.

Of potential gun regulation measures polled, only one showed significant support across the state and on the peninsula — allowing family members or police to petition a judge to confiscate firearms of a person deemed to be a risk, with 84 percent of respondents statewide, and 80 percent of Kenai Peninsula residents expressing support for the measure.

Reach Erin Thompson at ethompson@peninsulaclarion.com

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