Majority of Americans support dozens of policies to strengthen gun laws

For most policies, there is little difference in support between gun owners and non–gun owners

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report that the majority of Americans support an array of policies aimed at reducing gun violence.

The researchers conducted a national survey in January, several weeks after the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn. They found that the majority of Americans support all but four of the 31 gun policies asked about in the survey, including requiring universal background checks for all gun sales, banning the sale of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons, banning the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines, and prohibiting high-risk individuals from having guns.

"This research indicates high support among Americans, including gun owners in many cases, for a wide range of policies aimed at reducing gun violence," said lead study author Colleen Barry, PhD, MPP, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. "These data indicate broad consensus among the American public in support of a comprehensive approach to reducing the staggering toll of gun violence in the United States.

The researchers fielded another national survey, this one about Americans' attitudes about mental illness. They found that, though 61 percent of Americans favored spending more on mental health screening and treatment and 58 percent said discrimination against people with mental illness is a problem, more than half thought people with serious mental illness are more dangerous than others, and two-thirds expressed that they didn't want to have someone with a serious mental illness as a neighbor.

"In light of our findings about Americans' attitudes toward persons with mental illness, it is worth thinking carefully about how to implement effective gun-violence-prevention measures without exacerbating stigma or discouraging people from seeking treatment," added Barry.

The study, "After Newtown – Public Opinion on Gun Policy and Mental Illness," was published online on Jan. 28 by the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Tagged gun policy