(TNS) - Two-thirds of Anne Arundel County residents polled in a recent survey fear a mass shooting could occur at local schools, according to the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College.
The center’s wide-ranging poll of 663 county residents taken March 23-29 found support for metal detectors in schools and gun control measures to thwart a repeat of the violence in Parkland, Florida, or St. Mary’s County, Maryland.
Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues, said recent school shootings and public reaction to them has shifted public sentiment.
“My perception is they were willing to grasp almost any means to reduce gun violence, from mandatory checks to banning assault weapons or high capacity magazines,” he said Thursday.
Sixty-three percent of those polled said they fear a mass shooting might occur at a school near them.
Other findings related to the shootings:
96 percent backed background checks on all gun purchases.
82 percent approved national testing for gun safety.
74 percent backed a federal ban on high capacity gun magazines.
70 percent supported a ban on assault style weapons.
A strong majority of respondents, 69 percent, said metal detectors at all Maryland schools makes sense. Arming teachers only got 26 percent support in the survey.
Nataf said he did not know respondents’ motives but he thought the recent Parkland shooting, in which 17 students and school staff members were slain, and the Great Mills High School shooting in St. Mary’s on March 20 had an impact.
One teenage girl died of her injuries in the Maryland shooting, and the shooter killed himself after being shot by a school resource officer.
“Those events may have heightened their urgency where they might have been inclined to support gun control, that’s probably the case,” he said.
In other findings, opioids and drug abuse topped the survey’s list of most important problems facing the county for the second time in a row.
And the concern is growing. Last year the “illegal drug” selection topped the survey at 23 percent. It rose to 28 percent this year.
But residents were cool to the impact any government intervention in the opioid crisis has had with only 4 percent perceiving a major positive impact. The remaining respondents were split between 34 percent seeing “moderate impact” and 45 percent thinking “little or no impact.” Seventeen percent had no opinion.
In elections coming this year, both the Republican governor of Maryland and the Republican county executive of Anne Arundel the incumbents hold good leads, but their approval has slipped since the last survey.
Governor Larry Hogan continues to maintain steady backing with 56 percent saying that they will vote for him in November. He enjoyed support across the spectrum with strong support from independents and even some Democrats, whose voters are still trying to figure out who’s who among the slate of candidates.
County Executive Steve Schuh holds a 15-point lead over his challenger Democrat Steuart Pittman, 38 percent to 23 percent, but almost as many, 37 percent, were unsure about their choice.
One issue that could build in the campaign is growth and development. It came in second in the issues facing the county poll. But there is also a strong feeling that the county is out of balance in development.
Only 30 percent thought the county has “done a good job balancing demands for new development with measures ensuring our quality of life.” At the same time a vast majority — 72 percent — said “developers have too much influence on local land use and zoning decisions.”
Nataf said the county executive race has been low profile so far because there is no primary race in either party. “People will only make a decision near the end.”
The survey covered a slew of national and local issues including old standby measures of “right or wrong direction” with dips measured across the board.
Those surveyed who said the county is headed in the right direction dipped from 60 percent to 47 percent, the state fell from 60 percent right direction to 52 and the nation slipped from a meager 30 percent to just 26 percent.
But Nataf’s center also found for the first time people approve of recreational marijuana being made “legal, regulated and taxed; a draw on the Bayhawk’s proposal to convert the old Crownsville hospital site into a sports complex with 38 percent in favor and 35 percent opposed; and soft support for the Maglev train proposal at 42 percent.
Full survey results will be available on the Center for the Study of Local Issues website around noon Friday. http://www2.aacc.edu/csli/
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