For first time since Columbine, most Americans believe mass shootings can be stopped – The Denver Post


A CNN poll released this week shows striking evidence of a shift in American attitudes toward mass shootings: Nearly two-thirds of adults now believe that mass shootings can be prevented, the first time since Columbine, Colorado, that a majority of Americans have felt that way.

The survey suggests the Parkland, Florida, shooting is changing the public attitudes about gun violence in a way that other recent killings haven’t.

As recently as the summer of 2015, when nine black parishioners were shot to death by a white supremacist in a Charleston church, fewer than 40 percent of Americans said that government or society could do anything to stop the shootings.

Just four months ago, when 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a shooting in Las Vegas, a plurality of respondents told pollsters that government and society were essentially powerless to stop these incidents.

Today, however, 64 percent of Americans say that “government and society can take action that will be effective in preventing shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida, from happening again.” Just 32 percent say shootings like Parkland “will happen again regardless of what action is taken by government and society.”

The question has referenced different shootings each time it’s been asked, so some of the variation in responses to it likely reflects the differences between those shootings: venue, victims, shooters and other individual circumstances.

But the numbers nonetheless reflect the contours of a political routine we’ve all become familiar with: a national tragedy, followed by outrage, prayer and calls for action. Ultimately, however, federal firearm policy remains unchanged, an outcome driven in large part by congressional Republicans’ vehement opposition to substantive regulations on gun ownership. In the past, some red-state Democratic Senators, such as North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, have also been instrumental in voting down new gun control policies.

The recent shift in the public’s attitudes, however, is primarily concentrated among Republicans. In October, following the Las Vegas shooting, just 24 percent of Republicans said that “government and society can take action that will be effective in preventing shootings.”

This month, following the school shooting in Parkland, in which 17 students and educators were killed and 14 more were injured, Republican belief that government and society can stop mass shootings jumped by nearly 30 percentage points, to 52 percent.

The CNN poll shows strong Republican support for at least two specific gun control proposals. Ninety percent said they support a prohibition on gun purchases by convicted felons or people with certain mental health issues. The question, however, didn’t define what mental health issues would qualify for this policy.

More than 60 percent of Republicans also support raising the age limit to 21 for all gun purchases, including rifles. Currently, federal law sets an age limit of 21 for handgun purchases from licensed dealers and a limit of 18 for rifles. Because of that, the Florida school shooter had been able to legally obtain the military-style rifle used in the shooting despite being only 19.



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