What Georgians think about guns

Guns are a major issue in Georgia elections and voters thoughts about them are sometimes more complex than the bills lawmakers pass. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

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Guns are a major issue in Georgia elections and voters thoughts about them are sometimes more complex than the bills lawmakers pass. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Georgia is considered one of the more gun-friendly states, where lawmakers regularly pass bills loosening restrictions on firearms. But the story gets more complex when voters are asked their opinion.

Looking back at eight years of Atlanta Journal-Constitution polls shows broad support for carrying guns for self-defense. However, Georgia voters favor stronger rules on AR-15-style weapons and background checks even while questioning whether those same changes would reduce mass shootings.

ExploreGeorgia poll archive

In April, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill that allowed people to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Three months later an AJC poll found 61% of Georgia voters said they either strongly opposed or somewhat opposed it, with 35% indicating some level of support. The poll shows an increase in support for allowing the permitless carrying of firearms from polls in January 2022 and January 2019 when 15% of voters said they supported permitless carry and 82% opposed it.

In April 2018 following mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida, 45% of likely Republican primary voters said laws covering the sale of guns should be more strict while 46% said they should stay the same and 7% said they should be less strict. However, 78% of those same voters said preserving gun laws was either very important or important to them in determining which candidate would get their vote.

In another poll taken that same month, about 90% of Democratic primary voters said laws regulating gun sales should be more strict.

In January 2019, 78% of voters supported increasing the age to buy an AR-15-style weapon from 18 to 21, and 19% were opposed. A few years earlier, support for a nationwide ban on AR-15-style weapons was nearly even, with 48% in favor and 47% opposed.

While Georgians often voice support for gun control laws, many said in 2021 that they had doubts legislation would lead to fewer mass shootings.

A solid majority of Georgians think guns make communities safer. In 2016, 57% of voters said they supported or encouraged more people to carry guns for self-defense while 38% were opposed.

That same year, background checks for gun sales online or at gun shows had support from 76% of voters.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed two gun rights expansions. In 2014, it became legal to carry firearms in a wide range of new places, including schools, bars, churches and government buildings. Two years later he vetoed a bill to allow the carrying of concealed weapons on the campuses of public colleges. The following year, Deal signed a similar bill. Polls during that time showed Georgians favored keeping guns off college campuses.