A new Gallup poll released today shows that more Americans blame the country’s mental health system for mass shootings more than any other factor – including ease of access to guns.
The poll was released today in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting. Gallup compared the poll’s results to those of a similar poll taken in 2011 after the Tucson, Arizona shooting which left six people dead and twelve more injured – including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Gilfords.
In the poll, 48% of respondents placed a “great deal of blame” on the mental health system for failing to identify individuals that pose a risk to others. Only 40% placed a great deal of blame for shootings on easy access to guns – down 6% from the 2011 poll. 37% of Americans said drug use should be blamed for the shootings.
20% of respondents said that easy access to guns was not to blame at all for the shootings. In fact, 13% of respondents—the highest percentage in over a decade -- said laws regulating access to guns should be made even less strict. 49% of respondents said gun purchasing laws should be made more strict – down from 58% earlier this year.
Gallup also analyzed the political identities of respondents in relation to their answers. For Republicans, the greatest factor to blame for the shootings was the failure of the mental health system. 49% of Republicans placed a “great deal of blame” on the mental health system, while 50% of democrats did the same.
Meanwhile, 57% of democrats placed a great deal of blame for the shootings on easy access to guns, while only 20% of Republicans did the same. Republican respondents were more likely than Democrats to blame violent movies and video games for the shootings.
Since the Newtown shooting, many GOP politicians have been quick to fault mental health over gun access as the primary cause for the shootings. But as Think Progress writer Tara Culp-Ressler notes, lawmakers faulting mental health issues for gun violence are often the same ones blocking measures that would strengthen the mental health care system. In addition to blocking new measures, GOP legislators have slashed billions of dollars in funding to mental health care services in recent years.