Most US gun owners support stronger gun laws

May 28, 2018 by Carolyn Crist

This article was originally published on Reuters.

While gun owners and non-gun owners disagree on a handful of proposed policies, they agree on many new measures to strengthen gun laws, according to a new study.

A majority in both groups supports universal background checks, greater accountability for licensed gun dealers, higher safety training standards for concealed-carry permit holders, improved reporting of records related to mental illness for background checks, gun prohibitions for those with temporary domestic violence restraining orders, and gun violence restraining orders.

“We dwell so much on the areas where Americans are divided on guns, and we wanted to look for the important areas where Americans can agree,” said lead study author Dr. Colleen Barry of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore, Maryland.

Nearly 39,000 people die from firearm injuries in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This has increased from 33,000 since 2014.

“We realized very little research has been done on Americans’ specific views on gun policies,” Barry told Reuters Health by phone. “This is the kind of information that politicians and state legislators need to figure out whether to enact specific laws.”

In January 2017, Barry and colleagues surveyed a representative sample of more than 2,000 Americans through an online panel and asked whether they supported 24 different policies. The policies covered background checks, gun dealers’ licenses, temporary domestic violence restraining orders, gun safety measures, and differentiation between types of guns and ammunition available for sale.

The policies with the highest support from both groups – in the 80 percent range – included universal background checks, stronger measures requiring accountability by gun dealers unable to account for missing guns, a test that demonstrates safe and lawful gun handling for those legally allowed to carry a concealed gun, improved reporting of people disqualified from owning a gun due to mental health criteria, gun prohibitions for people with temporary domestic violence restraining orders, and laws that create a civil process for families to petition the court for temporary removal of a firearm from those deemed to be at serious risk for harming themselves or others.

Eight of the 24 policies had more than a 10-point support gap between gun owners and non-gun owners. These included banning the sale of large-capacity magazines, banning the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons, allowing a person to carry a concealed gun onto school grounds, requiring the gun owner to lock up guns when not in use, prohibiting someone younger than 21 from having a handgun, requiring someone to obtain a license from local law enforcement before buying a gun, prohibiting someone convicted of assault and battery from having a gun for 10 years, and allowing cities to sue licensed gun dealers when evidence indicates the dealer’s careless sales allowed criminals to buy guns.

“Our intuition is that advancing policy might be more feasible where the differences are the smallest,” Barry said. “Given the scale of gun violence and our limited resources to push through change, we want to focus on the policies that could make the greatest impact.”

One limitation of the national survey is that it was unable to track opinion gaps at the state and local level, where many of these policies would be enacted, the study authors wrote. California, for instance, has a gun violence restraining order policy already, and several studies are now evaluating its effects. Legislators and researchers also are looking at ways to make comprehensive background checks more effective.

“Pairing background check policies with purchaser licenses might be more effective, so we’re looking at ways to design and implement a policy that would help,” said Rose Kagawa of the University of California at Davis Violence Prevention Research Program, who researches comprehensive background check policies and firearm homicide and suicide numbers.

Kagawa, who wasn’t involved with this study, said in a phone call with Reuters Health, “How many injuries could be avoided? What are the implications and tradeoffs? What are the pros and cons? Specific policies haven’t received the attention in research that you might expect. We need to be doing this research.”

The Harvard Medical School Gun Violence Prevention Coalition is also looking at what role doctors should play in the gun violence conversation. The group is investigating the best ways doctors and patients can talk about injury prevention and firearm safety, particularly the efficacy of screening high-risk patients for self-harm.

“Most clinicians don’t feel comfortable having this conversation, and it’s not difficult to understand why,” said Dr. Chana Sacks of the Harvard coalition. Sacks became involved when her cousin’s 7-year-old son, Daniel, was shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December 2012.

“How do we better connect them with community resources to help patients?” she told Reuters Health by phone. “What we want to know is, what opportunities do we have to make meaningful change now that don’t require laws to be passed?”

According to Sacks, the idea that Americans are hugely divided on gun issues is easy to perpetuate, but opinions are more nuanced when looking at particular policies.

“Look at how much common ground there is,” she said. “It really does offer a path forward.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/2ktRvxT American Journal of Public Health, online May 17, 2018.

Back to Main Blog Page

Ready to learn more?

Fill out our form and start receiving information from schools today!

About You

Next Step >

Educational Info

Select up to 3 schools from the list.

Have You Taken the GRE?*

Yes
No

Military Affiliation?*

Yes
No
Required*

Schools with Online MPH Programs
A.T. Still University Online MPH
Benedictine University Online MPH
Concordia University of Nebraska Online MPH
Creighton University Online MPH
Des Moines University Online MPH
East Tennessee State University Online MPH
Emory University Online MPH
Florida A&M University Online MPH
George Washington University Online MPH
Idaho State University Online MPH
Johns Hopkins University Online MPH
Liberty University Online MPH
Loma Linda University Online MPH
Loyola University Online MPH
Medical College of Wisconsin Online MPH
New Mexico State University Online MPH
New York Medical College Online MPH
Northern Illinois University Online MPH
Nova Southeastern University Online MPH
OHSU-PSU School of Public Health Online MPH
Rivier University Online MPH Programs
San Jose State University Online MPH
Simmons College Online MPH Program
Tulane University Online MPH
University at Albany-SUNY Online MPH
University of Alabama Online MPH
University of Alaska Online MPH
University of California Berkeley Online MPH
University of Florida Online MPH
University of Illinois Online MPH
University of Massachusetts-Amherst Online MPH
University of Minnesota Online MPH
University of Montana Online MPH
University of Nebraska Medical Center Online MPH
University of New England Online MPH
University of North Carolina Online MPH
University of North Texas Online MPH
University of South Carolina Online MPH
University of South Florida Online MPH
University of Southern California Online MPH
University of West Florida Online MPH
West Virginia University Online MPH

Are you ready to learn more? Request Info from Schools

RECENT BLOG POSTS

Most US gun owners support stronger gun laws

May 29, 2018, By Sarah Hussain

US health chief pledges more action if Ebola spreads

May 24, 2018, By Sarah Hussain

IMPACT Melanoma set to celebrate National Don’t Fry Day

May 21, 2018, By Sarah Hussain

Already reeling Venezuela faces new challenge: An HIV outbreak

May 17, 2018, By Sarah Hussain

Request Info From Schools