Aug 7, 2019

Focus group: Minnesota swing voters want stronger gun control

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

EDINA, Minn. — After three deadly mass shootings in one week, some swing voters here are ready to ban assault weapons and institute federal background checks on all gun purchases.

  • That was one of the main takeaways from our Engagious/FPG focus group on Monday, which included 7 people who flipped from Barack Obama to Donald Trump and 4 who switched from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton.

Why it matters: While this is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters want the government to respond to the mass shootings that have shocked the nation. But there's still a long way for Congress to go before solutions like these are implemented.

  • It's especially complicated for Republicans. "GOP politicians are much more resistant to gun control than GOP voters are," per FiveThirtyEight's Perry Bacon Jr.
  • Republican lawmakers "have to be aware that a vote for some kind of gun control measure (even a popular one) could potentially get you cast as 'anti-gun,'" he writes, which could make them more vulnerable come election time.

We asked the participants if they thought there should be a federal ban on assault weapons in the U.S. Every single person raised their hand.

  • There hasn't been unanimous agreement on anything in any of our previous 5 focus groups this year.

What they're saying: The participants maintained that position even when presented with the counterargument that if we start banning assault weapons, the government will try to ban other guns.

  • "That's a bunch of BS," said Dennis Pearson, a 66-year-old Obama/Trump voter.
  • "If it's an assault gun, it should be taken away," said Virginia Bailey, a 55-year-old Obama/Trump voter. Pearson agreed: "They're only made to kill people."
  • These types of guns only have a place in the military or while hunting, others said.
  • "Anyone who feels the need to have an assault rifle probably shouldn't [have one]," said Theresa Nieswaag, a 34-year-old Obama/Trump voter.
  • "The Dayton shooter had a clip with 100 rounds in it," said 63-year-old Doug S., throwing his hands up, adding: "Unnecessary."
  • Various people nodded their heads and said "Oh, yes" and "wonderful" to the idea of Congress passing a law that bans the personal ownership of assault weapons.

There was also unanimous support among these Romney/Clinton and Obama/Trump voters for a federal background check on the purchase of a weapon.

  • Some said people should be required to say what they intend to do with the gun and why they need it.
  • One woman said gun buyers' Facebook pages should be checked for hints of whether they have bad intentions.

Between the lines: Nobody thought it would be a good solution to have more armed Americans as a way to try to stop mass shooters. Instead, they said they wished their representatives in Washington would focus on:

  • Mental health and having more affordable options to get help with that, particularly with medication and therapy.
  • Banning the resale of guns at gun shows.

These voters recognized that banning assault weapons wouldn't automatically fix the problem, but they all agreed it's a helpful starting point. "Having that barrier makes it a lot harder if it's criminalized," said Jordan R., a 26-year-old Romney/Clinton voter.

Go deeper: Watch the full focus group video on gun control.

Go deeper

Where 2020 Democrats stand on gun control

Warren and Biden on the debate stage on Jan. 14. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced a new gun reform bill on Thursday with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) that calls for raising the minimum age for all gun purchases to 21 and increasing the excise tax on gun sales to 30% and ammunition sales to 50%.

The big picture: 2019's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Virginia Beach; and near Odessa, Texas, have pushed 2020 Democrats to take harder stances on gun control than in the last presidential election, when Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton only briefly addressed the issue in their primary debate.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Focus group: Trump's vulnerabilities with Minnesota swing voters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

EDINA, Minn. — President Trump's absence of a plan on health care and on Social Security — compounded with voters' economic anxiety about a looming recession — could make him vulnerable with some swing voters here come 2020.

  • That was the main takeaway from our Engagious/FPG focus group last week, which included 7 people who flipped from Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, and 4 who switched from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton.

Why it matters: These voters don't feel that Trump is talking about the issues they care about most.

Go deeperArrowAug 12, 2019

Warren releases gun reform plan with a focus on mass shootings

Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren released her 2020 gun reform plan on Saturday before the Everytown for Gun Safety presidential forum in Des Moines, Iowa, calling for a federal assault weapons ban and universal background checks.

Catch up quick: Warren, one of the last top polling 2020 Democrats to release a formal gun control proposal, directly names recent mass shootings to underline the importance of her policy. Her plan wraps gun control into her broader anti-corruption package and identifies white nationalism as a form of domestic terrorism, in reference to the alleged shooter in El Paso.

Go deeperArrowAug 10, 2019