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New Minnesota poll shows strong support for gun safety measures

Solid backing for background checks, protection orders in Foundation funded survey

By Tim Daly, senior program officer in the Joyce Foundation’s Gun Violence Prevention and Justice Reform program

New polling data on Minnesota's gun policies released in December 2020: Significant Support for Progress on Gun Violence Prevention. On December 14, the Joyce Foundation and George Family Foundation hosted a webinar to discuss the poll and asked leading policymakers and advocates to share their views on how this policy debate will develop in the short to medium term. Watch the recording here.

Gun violence has become a top issue in communities across Minnesota. Data shows that between 2008 and 2018, nearly 4,000 Minnesotans lost their lives to gun violence, including more than 3,100 to suicide with a firearm.

This year, along with record gun sales and significant spikes in violence in cities across the country, the state has experienced its own increase in bloodshed. Over the first nine months of 2020, Minneapolis saw an 85 percent increase in homicides. Meanwhile, the flood of new guns into homes and communities is exacerbating the risk of firearm suicide, lethal domestic violence, and unintentional deaths -- namely of children, among other tragic outcomes.

Lawmakers in St. Paul are now grappling with what reforms, if any, should be made to the state's gun policies to respond to this public health and safety crisis. To inform the debate, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR) conducted a new public opinion research survey to explore the topic, funded by grants from the Foundation and the George Family Foundation.

The goal of the research was to provide policymakers and the public with a better understanding of how Minnesotans view gun laws in the state. The survey (found here) was fielded in September 2020, and GQRR questioned 1,000 likely voters statewide, including a focus in several suburban/exurban communities around the Twin Cities.

Majority support

The survey found that Minnesotans strongly support a wide range of proposed gun violence prevention policies. According to GQRR, every policy tested in this survey generates majority support, and in most cases, above 70 percent support. Of particular note:

  • 92 percent of likely voters support universal background checks, including 86 percent of gun owners, and 92 percent in the suburban/exurban communities of the Twin Cities.
  • 86 percent support emergency protection orders, sometimes referred to as “Red Flag" laws, that allow a petitioner to seek a temporary suspension of a person’s access to a gun if a court determines they are a danger to themselves or others. By a four to one margin, likely voters believe family members, as well as law enforcement, should be empowered to use this tool.
  • 82 percent support increasing state funding for community-based organizations that work to support victims of gun violence and develop violence intervention programs, including 76 percent of gun owners, and 84 percent in the state’s suburban/exurban communities.

These numbers reinforce previous survey findings showing widespread and consistent support in Minnesota for strengthened gun safety measures.

Doubts about impact

Interestingly, while the individual policies enjoy widespread, if not overwhelming support, not all supporters are convinced these policies will make a major difference.

Just 39 percent of likely Minnesota voters believe policies like these will make a major impact reducing gun violence in the state. Thirty-six percent believe they will have minor impact, and 25 percent not much of an impact, or no impact at all.

Given growing evidence of the efficacy of many of these policies -- including expanded background checks to all gun sales with a permit-to-purchase system, and the creation of an extreme-risk protection order -- this gap likely represents an opportunity that researchers and advocates could help address in the short to medium term.

The Foundation intends to use these research findings to guide our grantmaking directed at strengthening gun policy in the Great Lakes region.


The Joyce Foundation is a private, nonpartisan philanthropy that invests in public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region. It supports policy research, development, and advocacy in arts and culture, democracy, education and economic mobility, the environment, and gun violence prevention and justice reform. Its grant making is focused in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The Foundation has budgeted 2020 charitable distributions of $52 million.