The mass murders at Virginia Tech University this week have inspired those in gun control circles to renew their pressure on politicians to reexamine our nation’s gun laws; it has also caused 2nd Amendment strict constructionists to dig in deeper to fight against such changes.
In their coverage of the Virginia Tech story, the media has frequently portrayed Virginia’s gun laws as too lax. Some may be surprised to learn, then, that gun ownership is equal to or higher across the Upper Midwest than in the Commonwealth of Virginia. A March 2007 SurveyUSA poll found 46 percent of Virginians own guns, compared to 50 percent of Wisconsinites, 50 percent of Minnesotans, and 46 percent of Iowans. The most recent poll of South Dakotans found 61 percent owned guns (SurveyUSA, November 2006). The surveys do not distinguish between types of firearms, and, to be sure, a substantial portion of Upper Midwesterners who own guns only own hunting rifles, not handguns.
In 2003 the Wisconsin Legislature considered legislation permitting concealed weapons, though the majority of Wisconsinites opposed the right of its residents to carry on both their own property (56 percent) and in public (60 percent) (WPR / St. Norbert College, November 2003).
When concealed weapon laws came to the forefront in the Minnesota legislature in 2003, less than one quarter of Minnesotans (22 percent) stated they would consider applying for a permit to carry a handgun (Minnesota Poll, April 2003).