The majority of Americans believe that poor mental health contributes to mass shootings more than the current gun control laws, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The survey also revealed that Americans are split on whether lawmakers should focus on creating new gun laws or protecting the rights of gun owners.
The poll, which was released on Oct. 26, shows a strong majority of Americans attribute mass shootings to mental health. Sixty-three percent of respondents agreed that mass shootings reflect the country’s inability to properly identify and address mental health problems, according to the Washington Post. Only 23 percent believe inadequate gun control laws are to blame.
Forty-seven percent of respondents believe that lawmakers should do more to protect gun rights while 46 percent believe that new gun laws should be passed. This deep divide leaves little middle ground, with only 4 percent of respondents favoring both priorities and 3 percent offering no opinion.
The data shows a rift between Democrats and Republicans on gun control. Seven in 10 Democrats want new gun laws while roughly seven in 10 Republicans favor preserving gun rights. There also is a divide between Americans living in cities and those living in rural areas, according to the poll. While 52 percent of urban respondents favor new guns laws, only 33 percent of rural respondents agree.
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Eighty-two percent of all respondents do agree that gun violence is a problem that must be addressed, with 58 percent describing it as a “very serious” issue.
While Americans may be united on the importance of the problem, they remain divided on the solution.
"There's no doubt about it that it's a mental health problem," Gary Slutkin, a professor at the University of Illinois and founder of the Cure Violence organization, told Newsweek. “We've seen enough of the individuals, we've heard their characteristics and this is a mental, emotional, social health problem."
Others argue that the lack of gun control measures are encouraging mass shooters.
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“I think these young men -- and it's not all young men, but it’s mostly young men -- whose minds are becoming unhinged and are contemplating mass violence, they take cues from the total, complete, absolute silence from Congress in the face of mass shooting after mass shooting," Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said recently, according to the Huffington Post.
The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted between Oct. 15-18 via telephone. A total of 1,001 adults were surveyed, and the poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.