Poll claims massive support for TN red flag measure

Poll claims massive support for TN red flag measure
AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File

Following the shooting in Nashville, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee started talking about gun control. In particular, he started discussing his own version of a red flag law.

Now, the measure isn’t as bad as most red flag laws–you actually have some degree of due process with Lee’s proposal–but there are still issues with it.

Yet a recent poll seems to suggest that there is extensive support for such a measure.

Three out of four Tennesseans from a new Vanderbilt University poll said they strongly or somewhat support red flag laws that permit a court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person found to be at “high risk” of harming themselves or others as a way to prevent school shootings.

Vanderbilt’s semiannual poll also shows eight of 10 Tennesseans voice support for Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order strengthening background checks for gun buyers following the March 27 attack on a private Christian school in Nashville that left six people dead, including three 9-year-old children.

The governor insisted his effort is not a red flag law because it would ensure a person would have the opportunity to appear in court on the front end to contest any effort to remove his or her firearms while red-flag laws don’t.

I don’t care what he tries to say, it’s still a red flag law. It just looks a bit different on the front end, yet it still allows someone who supposedly can’t be trusted with a gun to walk around and able to find other ways to carry out awful attacks.

But hey, with such broad support for Lee’s actions, there’s no reason not to pass them, right?

Well, yeah, there is. We’ve talked about them previously, but for me, polling isn’t all that useful here.

For example, we still don’t know precisely what questions were asked, who was asked the questions, or much of anything else about the poll.

See, if you focus your polling on Nashville, you’re going to get a very different answer than if you polled the more rural parts of the state.

How you ask a question may lead many to give one answer whereas a similar question phrased another way may yield a different answer. It’s why pollsters get so anal about what questions to ask.

So while the results may suggest broad support, I’m not ready to just acknowledge that to be an absolute fact.

Further, it seems likely that while many might be supportive of such laws in the more immediate aftermath of the shooting, that support will likely fizzle as many start to think about the reality, that new laws don’t produce the benefits proponents tend to claim.

So while Lee may push his red flag law all he wants–and he can call it “Dinner with Paddington Bear” if he wants, it doesn’t change what it is–it doesn’t mean that this poll is accurately reflecting much of anything.

Whether it’s reflecting the pollsters’ own biases or just a knee-jerk moment in time doesn’t matter, though. We don’t base our rights on public opinion.