While two-thirds of Virginia voters say they want armed guards in schools, the voting bloc is more split on their opinions over gun control laws in general, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.
By a margin of 66%-29%, voters say they support the idea of placing an armed police officer in every school, a proposal pushed by the National Rifle Association in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school shooting last month.
Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell in December expressed openness to the notion of equipping school personnel with guns. Though he did not outwardly endorse such a plan, he cautioned against immediately rejecting it.
"I think there should be a discussion of that - if people were armed, not just the police officer but other school officials were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would have been an opportunity to stop aggressors coming in to the schools," McDonnell said in an interview on WTOP, a Washington radio station.
At the same time, the Quinnipiac poll shows nearly half of registered voters in Virginia, where the NRA has its headquarters, say gun regulations in the commonwealth should be stricter. Six percent say they should be less strict, while 42% say firearm laws should stand as they are.
Virginia is also the site of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, the most deadly school shooting in U.S. history that left 33 dead, including the gunman.
Getting more specific on proposals, a majority-60%--say they favor limiting gun purchases to one a month, and an overwhelming amount of voters-92%--say they support background checks for individuals who buy firearms at gun shows. Federal law currently exempts gun purchasers from background checks in private sales.
At the federal level, Virginia voters support a national ban on assault weapons by a margin of 58% to 39%. The U.S. had such a ban from 1994 until it expired in 2004. It was not renewed nine years ago, but renewed attention has spurred many calls on Capitol Hill for a reinstatement of the ban.
Other lawmakers have supported a more narrow focus of eliminating high capacity magazines, devices that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. In Virginia, 59% of voters say they favor such a proposal, while 37% oppose it.
When it comes to views on the purpose of guns, 50% say firearms help protect people from crime while 41% say it "puts people at risk."
"Virginians, by a slight margin, are in favor of more gun control, but they don't seem to fit nicely into either camp in the gun debate following the Newtown school massacre," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute., in a statement. "There has been a small increase in the number favoring tougher gun control, but it is not large."