Guns, Politics, Social Issues, Spring 2018 Articles

67% of NC State Students Support a Semi-Automatic Weapons Ban

Following the Parkland shooting, support for stricter gun laws has reached an all-time high across the nation. As a whole, NC State students appear to share many of the same sentiments.

According to our recent poll, 97% of NC State students support criminal background checks for all gun sales, 67% support a nationwide ban on semi-automatic weapons that fire a high number of rounds, and 69% of students believe that regulating gun ownership in the US is more important than protecting the rights of Americans to own guns. The results speak for themselves; certain gun control laws are immensely popular among students at NC State.

Unsurprisingly, there were stark contrasts along party lines on specific issues. The ban on semi-automatic weapons is a polarizing topic, with support at 88% for Democrats and only 31% for Republicans. Similarly, those on opposite sides of the political spectrum disagree about whether we should add police and security to common public areas. The percentage is over twice as high for Republicans, at 76% versus only 35% for Democrats.


It is worth noting the two issues that sparked agreement among various party members: background checks and stiffer penalties for people violating existing gun laws. Stiffer penalties for gun law violations are supported by 88% of Democrats, 84% of Republicans, and 81% of Independents. Meanwhile, background checks garnered the support of 98% of Democrats, 97% of Republicans, and 93% of Independents. This overwhelming majority in support of background checks is not uncommon, as results like ours have been found in a multitude of other polls.

Along similar lines, students who identified as being socially conservative were less supportive of gun control laws than those who are socially liberal; in fact, the numbers line up quite closely with party ID, with support for gun control policies among social conservatives, moderates, and liberals echoing the support among Republicans, Independents, and Democrats, respectively. This suggests that the deep divide between social liberals and social conservatives may not only hold only for issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, but for the gun debate as well. 


NC State students are divided on a few gun issues, yet generally agree on others. We can only draw so many conclusions from a few policy questions, but the consensus on topics like background checks is certainly noteworthy; when 97% of people agree on anything, it’s significant. We’ll have to wait and see if poll results like these- in addition to local activism like this– prove significant enough to lead to tangible changes in gun laws in the future.

NOTE ON METHODOLOGY:  This PackPoll took place February 22-25, 2018. The survey was administered over the internet to a random sample of 3,500 NCSU undergraduates and 3,500 NCSU graduate students. The true population of undergraduates and graduate students taking at least one face-to-face class on campus is 21,192 and 7,113, respectively. However, 44 students are minors and 814 more have privacy flags preventing contact, slightly reducing the population eligible to be sampled. Each student remaining in the population had an equal chance of being contacted because each student is required to have a unique “” email. 

Of those invited to participate, 712 undergraduates and 731 graduate students completed the survey, a total of 1,443, resulting in a 21% response rate.  Assuming a 50-50 division in opinion calculated at a 95 percent confidence level, the margin of sampling error for the sample is (plus or minus) +/-2.5% for questions answered by the full sample. However, sampling error increases for each estimate when three or more choices were offered, for example, when fewer respondents were asked a version of a question, or when analyzing the opinions of sub-groups, such as when looking just at how female respondents answered a question. 

The response rate for just the undergraduate student sample is 20%, and 21% for graduate students. Likewise, the margin of sampling error for describing the opinions of just undergraduates in this survey is +/-3.6%, while it is +/-3.4 for graduate students. 

In addition to sampling error, other forms of non-sampling error occur in surveys, such as confusion about question wording or the order of questions, and non-response bias (low response rates), but these types of error are not precisely quantifiable.  

We only apply post-stratification sample weights for student status when describing the opinions of “all” students.  Undergraduates comprise 75% of the student population, but just 49% of our sample, so weighting is necessary to accurately describe the views of all students. There is a slight under-representation of males in our undergraduate sample, but not enough to warrant further weighting of that population it would not produce noticeable effects on any of the results. 


  1. Asking “do you support a ban on semi-automatic weapons that fire a high number of rounds” is a sneaky and gross way of getting to the conclusion that x% of people support a ban on all semi-automatic weapons. Those should be two separate questions. You can’t do stuff like that and expect to gain the trust of people who are already suspicious of the left wanting to confiscate weapons. I see what you are trying to do, but that is not the right way to go about it. Also…all weapons fire “a lot of rounds”? All you have to do is reload dude. I think you might have meant to say “high capacity magazines”.

  2. Even terms like “high capacity magazines” are not technically part of any sort of lexicon correctly used to describe weapons, at least the way these terms are commonly used in this debate. A “high capacity magazine” refers to a magazine with a capacity higher than the standard capacity magazine provided with the gun when it is ordered from the factory. 17 rounds is standard for most semi-automatic, striker-fired full-size handguns, like the glock 17. This is not, according to correct terminology from Glock, the gun community, or anyone who has a decent familiarity with firearms a “high-capacity magazine”. A 33 round magazine for a glock 17 is correctly considered a “high-capacity magazine” because it holds a higher number of rounds than is standard for this weapon. This same principle holds true for AR platform rifles. 30-round magazines are standard capacity for this style of weapon. 40 round, 50 round, and 100 round drums are considered “high capacity” or “upgraded” magazines if you will, because they hold a higher capacity than the “standard issue” magazines. The States of California, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maryland incorrectly classify magazines as “high capacity” if they hold more than 10 rounds, regardless of caliber, weapon classification (e.g. sub-compact, service pistol, intermediate-caliber semi-automatic rifle, clip- or magazine- fed bolt action rifle, shotgun, etc), which is both a severe oversimplification and just technically incorrect. This is roughly analagous to claiming that all vehicles with an engine displacement over an arbitrary number of liters are considered “high volumetric displacement engines”. This would be an arbitrary classification with no basis in the type of vehicle under consideration or the classification/application of that vehicle. 3.0 liters may be a lot for a Corolla, but it’s quite small for an F-150.

    Regardless of your position on this conversation, it is essential to use the correct terminology. Arguing on a topic where you are uninformed is dangerous, stupid, and often motivated by emotion.

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