Poll: Mental Health Problems, Not Lax Gun Laws, Are Responsible For Mass Shootings

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Oct 26, 2015 6:20 PM
Poll: Mental Health Problems, Not Lax Gun Laws, Are Responsible For Mass Shootings

Democrats aren’t happy that Republicans won’t help them expand background checks, so they’re making things difficult for them by refusing to move an inch on bills aimed at reforming our mental health system. It’s been an issue on the periphery of the gun control debate, which gets little to no attention, though it seems to be a huge part of the discussion. Most mass shooters exhibited signs of mental illness, but Democrats and anti-gun liberals are preoccupied with only expanding background checks–or calling for the repeal of the Protection Of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. It's the bill that shields gun manufacturers from lawsuits if their firearms are unknowingly used in a crime. 

Without this law, there's not doubt in my mind they would use it to curb our rights via lawfare instead of the ballot box, as exemplified in this exchange between Sen. Bernie Sanders and a gun control activist last July. Sander voted for the PLCAA and is unapologetic about it, but let's get back to mental health because it's the reason why most Americans think mass shootings keep happening. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll showed–by more than a two-to-one margin–that Americans don't blame lax gun laws for mass shootings, but our failure to address mental health issues. Yet, there's still a significant proportion of Americans who want more gun control. When it comes to  prioritizing passing new (unnecessary) gun laws or protecting our Second Amendment rights, the question splits the country virtually right down the middle:

The survey finds that 46 percent say new laws to reduce gun violence should be a bigger priority, while 47 percent say it's more important to protect the right to own firearms. This marks a shift away from gun laws since April 2013, when Democrats' push for increased background checks fell short in the aftermath of the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.; back then, a 52 percent majority said new laws should be a priority.

Republicans and Americans in rural areas account for the shift toward giving gun rights higher priority. Since 2013, the number of rural Americans who prioritize gun rights over new laws has grown from 46 percent to 61 percent, and the share of Republicans has jumped from 58 percent to 71 percent.

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But while many have called for stricter gun laws in their wake, the Post-ABC poll finds far more point to problems treating people with mental health issues. By a more than 2-to-1 margin, more people say mass shootings reflect problems identifying and treating people with mental health problems rather than inadequate gun control laws (63 percent to 23 percent).

Pew Research recently released their data showing that the homicides rate has stabilized, with a 30 percent drop in gun deaths since 1993. That’s including suicides, though they noted it’s an area that’s seem a significant rise regarding gun deaths. While tragic, suicides aren’t gun violence, but are often used by gun control advocacy groups to increase the annual body count.

So, we have some polling showing that Americans think Washington should focus on better detecting and treating mental illness. This will be a long debate that will include a deep analysis within the fields of law and medicine that will hopefully bring some policy prescriptions that could be enacted at the state or federal level.