Poll: 89% of Marylander’s Support Longer Penalties for Possessing Stolen Guns

Maryland Matters: An overwhelming majority of Marylanders say they favor increased penalties for those convicted of possession of a stolen firearm.

A poll released Tuesday by Annapolis-based Gonzales Research & Media Service found that strong, broad-based support for stiffer penalties exists across a wide spectrum of state voters.

“What really surprised me the most is just the unanimity across the board of intense agreement,” said pollster Patrick Gonzales. “When you get conservatives and progressives agreeing to the same degree, there aren’t too many issues where that would happen.”

Nearly 89% of those surveyed by Gonzales said they support making the possession of a stolen firearm a felony in Maryland. That support spans all races, age groups, genders, political affiliations and regions.

Similarly, the poll found that 77.3% of Marylanders said they strongly supported the increased penalties. Again, the level of support was remarkably consistent across all races, age groups, genders, political affiliations and regions.

Gonzales surveyed 841 voters registered in Maryland who said they were likely to vote in the 2024 general election. The poll, conducted between May 30 and June 6, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 points.

House Minority Whip Jesse Pippy leads a press conference March 2 with House and Senate Republican lawmakers to introduce public safety legislation, specifically to combat violent crime. Photo by William J. Ford.

Republican lawmakers this year unsuccessfully sought to increase the penalties for convictions related to the theft of a firearm.

Under current law, the theft of a firearm is prosecuted under a general theft statute. Penalties associated with the theft are based on the value of the stolen property.

House Republicans in March called for separating out the crime, making it a felony. A conviction would have carried a penalty of up to five years in prison and or a fine up to $1,000 for a first offense. Subsequent convictions would have carried up to a 10-year prison term and as much as a $2,500 fine.

“I come back to the unanimity of agreement between all spectrums. As a politician, you are risking your political life staking out a position that much in opposition,” said Gonzales. “Does it rise to the level of the average voter’s daily consciousness? No, but let’s say something happens that makes it all of a sudden bring it to that level?”

Gonzales surveyed public attitudes on a number of issues including the job performance of Gov. Wes Moore (D) and President Joseph Biden as well as the direction of Maryland and the nation. The poll also asked voters about their support of Moore’s call to end the sale of gas-powered cars and trucks by 2035 and require all new car sales to be electric vehicles.

Moore and Biden, a tale of two approval numbers

In Maryland, a majority of those surveyed — 55% — approve of the job done by Moore during his first four months in office. Unsurprisingly, 77% of Democrats said they approved compared to just 19% of Republicans (another 20% said they didn’t know). A plurality of independent voters — 47% — approved of Moore’s initial job performance compared to 30% who disapproved.

Moore’s job approval numbers are consistent with a May Goucher College poll. And even though Moore’s numbers are lower than the sky-high ratings enjoyed by Republican former Gov. Larry Hogan, Gonzales said Moore has nothing to hang his head about.

“It was possible for Larry Hogan to capture the imagination of the number of Democrats he did because of just the political environment,” said Gonzales. “It is not possible in today’s environment for a Democrat to capture the percentage of Republicans necessary to get Wes Moore even with Larry Hogan. Overall, I’m kind of impressed with his approval number.”

The same poll found there are some worrisome trends for Biden. The first-term president is ramping up a re-election bid. The Gonzales poll suggests some areas of concern.

Just 52% of those surveyed approved of Biden’s job performance. And while his approval numbers are within the margin of error when compared to Moore, Biden has dropped 6 points since a Gonzales poll in January.

Biden appears to be losing the support of independent Maryland voters, 42% of which approved compared to 51% who said the disapprove. In January, 51% of independents said they approved of Biden’s job performance. At the time, that was a 20-point increase from a 2022 Gonzales poll.

“If you look at it over, not just the last four months since January, but since he’s been in office, you see a very fluid type of electorate,” said Gonzales. “You can still make the case that it could bounce back.”

State, nation headed in opposite directions

How voters perceive the direction in which the country is moving is another potential concern.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said they believed Maryland was moving in the right direction. It’s a result that typically tracks with executive job approval, Gonzales said.

Except in Biden’s case.

The same voters who held a positive view of Maryland were not as positive when asked about the nation. In that instance, two of every three voters said the country is off course.

Some of that may be tied into perceptions of how Biden is addressing the flow of immigrants through the southern U.S. border.

That includes nearly 49% of voters who said they strongly disapproved of Biden’s efforts at the border. Just over 9% said they strongly approved of the incumbent Democrat’s policies.

“I’m very perplexed that the relationship between the direction that Marylanders think the country is moving doesn’t yet correspond with their approval rating of Biden,” Gonzales said. “When voters typically feel things are off or on the wrong track, the incumbent’s approval rating usually suffers. We don’t see that here, yet.”

Photo: The Maryland State House. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

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