Poll: Mental health, not gun laws, to blame for shootings

Poll: Mental health, not gun laws, to blame for shootings
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The public by a large margin blames mass shootings on problems in the mental health system and not inadequate gun control, according to a new poll. 

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The Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that 63 percent of adults say mass shootings are more a reflection of problems identifying and treating people with mental illness. Just 23 percent say that the shootings are more a result of inadequate gun control laws. 

There are sharp partisan divisions on the question: 82 percent of Republicans point to mental health over gun laws, compared to 65 percent of independents and 46 percent of Democrats. 

Separately, slightly more adults in the poll say protecting gun rights should be a higher priority than new gun laws, at 47 percent to 46 percent. 

The public’s partisan split over gun control and mental health is reflected in Congress as a push for mental health legislation grows. There is hope for a bipartisan measure, but each party gives contrasting reasons for their support. 

Republicans tend to say mental health reform can help solve mass shootings, while Democrats say gun control is needed but that shouldn’t stop a mental health bill that could do some good in its own right. 

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day Congress eyes changes to small business pandemic aid Top Democrat to introduce bill to limit Trump's ability to fire IGs MORE (D-Conn.) has made gun control a priority in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 and has also co-sponsored a mental health reform bill.

“The families in Sandy Hook, they want changes to our nation’s gun laws, but they don’t want our disagreements over those issues to stop us from making bipartisan progress on other issues that are important like our broken mental health system,” Murphy said when introducing his bill in August. 

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) is pushing a mental health bill in his chamber and links the effort far more strongly with stopping gun violence. 

“No more moments of silence,” Murphy wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this month touting his bill. “The time to act is now.”