Gallup: Americans largely believe nation’s failure to manage mental health issues biggest factor leading to mass shootings

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, September 20, 2013

Regardless of the trumped-up calls Democrats make for additional gun control laws, American people still consider the country’s failure to properly address mental health issues the biggest factor in preventing tragedies like that at the Washington (D.C.) Navy Yard Monday.

According to a study released by Gallup Friday, 48 percent of Americans place a great deal of blame for mass shootings in the U.S. in the failure of the mental health system to identify individuals who are a danger to others. That is the same percentage of Americans who told Gallup they believed a failed mental health system was at fault for mass shootings in January 2011 – more than a year before the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. that left 12 dead and 74 others injured and nearly two years before 26 people, including 20 children, were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. last December.

It was, however, conducted shortly after the assassination attempt on former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) at a campaign event in Tucson, Ariz. that left six people dead and a dozen others injured. Giffords survived but suffered severe injuries from the shooting.

Easy access to guns came in second with 40 percent, a drop of six points from the 2011 study. That doesn’t bode well for proponents of increased gun control laws, who have used these tragedies to campaign for universal background checks and assault weapons bans, arguing that it was the easy access to weapons that led to the shootings.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans and Independents were more likely to place the most blame on the nation’s mental health system, while Democrats were more likely to attribute it to easy access to guns.

Other top factors that Americans believe hold a great deal of blame for the recent mass shootings include drug use (37 percent), violence in movies, video games and music lyrics (32 percent) and the spread of extremist viewpoints on the Internet (29 percent).

Gallup surveyed 1,023 adults nationwide via telephone from September 17-18, 2013. The margin of error for the study is +/- 3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level. 

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