LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56/WATE) — As details emerged around one of the deadliest workplace shootings in Kentucky history, a new WATE/Emerson College poll found the majority of likely Kentucky Republican primary voters are satisfied with the status quo on gun control.
School safety remains a topic of discussion after a recent shooting in Nashville became the 13th U.S. school shooting and deadliest in 2023. According to the poll, likely Kentucky Republican primary voters believe children are safe in school.
GUN LAWS IN KENTUCKY
When it comes to Kentucky’s gun laws, 70.6% of poll respondents said they’re “just right.” Meanwhile, 17.9% found them “too strict,” and 11.5% said “too lenient.”
“A gender divide exists within the Republican party on gun laws,” Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling, noted. “Twenty-seven percent of male voters find gun laws to be ‘too strict,’ compared to 9% of women voters. Conversely, 14% of women find gun laws to be ‘too lenient,’ compared to 10% of men.”
“Attitudes on gun laws also vary by age,” Kimball continued. “Of Republican voters under 65, 20% say gun laws are ‘too strict’, and 10% ‘too lenient.’ On the other hand, 15% of voters over 65 think gun laws are ‘too lenient,’ and 13% think they are ‘too strict.’”
LOUISVILLE BANK SHOOTING
The state and the Louisville community are mourning the deaths of five Old National Bank employees who were killed in a mass shooting Monday morning. In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Louisville authorities said gunman Connor Sturgeon, a 25-year-old bank employee, legally purchased the AR-15 rifle used in the shooting at an area dealer just days earlier.
Camille Mumford, director of communications for Emerson College Polling, said the Louisville shooting likely did not change opinions on gun reform among voters.
“There didn’t seem to be a large difference in beliefs on the gun questions for Republican voters there,” she said. The poll was conducted as the news of the shooting unfolded and the first details were released.
SECOND AMENDMENT SANCTUARY
Before adjourning for the year, the Kentucky legislature passed House Bill 153, making the state a “Second Amendment sanctuary.” The law, which Gov. Andy Beshear allowed to go into effect on March 28 without his signature, requires local and state police officers to not enforce any future federal gun regulations. It also calls for officers to be charged if they enforce future federal gun laws.
“Remember that this only prevents state and local law enforcement officials from enforcing these federal laws,” Political analyst Jonathan Miller said following the passage of the bill. “It doesn’t prevent the ATF or federal agents from enforcing them. So the impact of this would be limited, and that’s if it’s constitutional.”
Miller said the new law could come to the courtroom to work out the debate over whether federal law is supreme to state law and how it’s enforced. A similar law was ruled unconstitutional this year in Missouri.
SCHOOL SAFETY IN KENTUCKY
On the topic of school safety, 66.8% of those who responded to the poll said they think children in their Kentucky community are very (20.5%) or somewhat (46.3%) safe attending school. Meanwhile, 27.4% think children are very (9.8%) or somewhat (17.6%) unsafe.
School safety remains top of mind after three children and three adults died in the shooting at a small private Christian school in Nashville on March 27. The shooter, identified as 28-year-old former student Audrey Hale, was armed with two assault-style rifles and one handgun.
Following the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2013, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a law that eventually became a blueprint for 2019’s much larger School Safety and Resiliency Act. It created new positions, training, and policies around school safety that have made Kentucky a national model, as at least 15 other states have asked for copies.
In 2022, lawmakers passed House Bill 63, which requires a school resource officer (SRO) in all public K-12 schools with the financial means to hire one. James Poynter, president of the Kentucky Association of School Resource Officers, told WATE’s sister station FOX 56 that 685 SROs were in Kentucky schools as of April 2023.
Jon Akers, executive director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety, described Kentucky’s school safety law as taking two different approaches: the “hardware” of locking doors, safety training, and other security measures, and the “heart”-ware of taking students’ mental health into consideration.
“What issues are they being traumatized with outside the four walls of the school that they bring into the school? How can we help them in a prevention way rather than a reactive way? That’s what these pieces of legislation have done for us, and I think it’s working well,” Akers said in December 2022.
More data from the WATE/Emerson poll will be released at 10 p.m. EST Thursday, including the results of who Kentucky poll respondents favor for the Republican gubernatorial nominee ahead of the May 16 primary.
Methodology: The WATE/Emerson College poll has a sample size of n=900 very likely Republican primary voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points. Data was collected April 10-11, 2023, by contacting cell phones via SMS-to-web, an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, and a consumer list of emails. It is important to remember that subsets based on demographics, such as gender, age, education, and race/ethnicity, carry with them higher credibility intervals, as the sample size is reduced. Survey results should be understood within the poll’s range of scores, and know with a confidence interval of 95% a poll will fall outside the range of scores 1 in 20 times. A copy of the full poll results will be available at 6 a.m. EST on Friday, April 14.