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Gun control laws less responsible for mass shootings than mental health care failure: poll

- The Washington Times - Friday, September 20, 2013

The American public now believes that easy access to guns plays less of a role in mass shootings than it did in the wake of the deadly Tucson shooting in 2011, a Gallup poll found.

The poll, released Friday, measured the country's sentiments about gun control on Sept. 17 and 18, just days after Monday's mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard that left 12 and the shooter, Aaron Alexis, dead. The 2011 poll was conducted Jan. 14 to 16, measuring the response after a mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six and wounded several others, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

"Easy access to guns" is the second reason to blame after a failure of the mental health system, according to the poll. In 2011, 46 percent of those polled said gun control was "a great deal to blame," while in the days after the Navy Yard shooting, that number dropped to just 40 percent. About 20 percent in the recent poll said that easy access to guns is not to blame at all in mass shootings.

Democrats and Republicans feel very differently about how much of an affect access to guns has on mass shootings. More than half of Democrats, at 57 percent, feel that gun access is "a great deal" to blame, while only 22 percent of Republicans feel the same way.

Since 2011, the number of people who blame the "failure of the mental health system to identify individuals who are a danger to others" has stayed the same at about 48 percent.

In addition, fewer Americans believe now that gun sale laws need to be stricter than in 2012, immediately after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 27, including many children.

The poll asked people to think about recent mass shootings in the United States, then "from what you know or have read, how much do you think each of the following factors is to blame for the shootings — a great deal, a fair amount, not much or not at all?" Other factors include drug use, down 5 percentage points since 2011, and violence in movies, video games and music lyrics, up 1 percent.

The poll was conducted by phone with more than 1,000 adults living across the country.

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