Gallup has released a survey that asks Americans what they think should be done to prevent mass school shootings, like the tragic one that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. The results are somewhat surprising, and show that people are giving the issue serious thought for a change.
The polling firm summarizes:
Americans are most likely to say that an increased police presence at schools, increased government spending on mental health screening and treatment, and decreased depiction of gun violence in entertainment venues would be effective in preventing mass shootings at schools. Americans rate the potential effectiveness of a ban on assault and semi-automatic guns as fourth on a list of six actions Gallup asked about.
Enhancement of police security at public schools, perhaps increasing patrols and randomized scheduled checks, would perhaps help prevent such crimes. Mental health screening could help identify those likely to hurt themselves and others, particularly in conjunction with the aid of alert and informed parents and school officials.
The assault weapons ban (which includes semi-automatic weapons, encompassing many types of guns) is a more controversial topic that requires serious, fact-driven discussion. Only the position that gun violence in entertainment media should be censored or removed seems completely without evidence to back it up (more on this later).
Below is the list of solutions for the mass shootings problem and Americans’ support:
Regarding the assault weapons ban, it appears there are two entrenched opponents — pro and against; and a middle-fifth that could either use more information or is doubtful anything can be done to prevent such relatively rare, but terrifying mass shootings. But what do they agree on? Some 87% believe police presence would help, and 84% think more mental health screening.
If we go to the political ideology breakdown, one finds that Democrats overwhelmingly support a ban on assault weapons (a vague and broad term), but Independents and Republicans do not:
The largest known scientific study on rampage killers published at the time, as reported by The New York Times, shows that such murderers “are not drunk or high on drugs. They are not racists or Satanists, or addicted to violent video games, movies or music.” The study examined a 100 cases, including the Columbine shooting, and found:
While the killings have caused many people to point to the violent aspects of the culture, a closer look shows little evidence that video games, movies or television encouraged many of the attacks. In only 6 of the 100 cases did the killers have a known interest in violent video games. Seven other killers showed an interest in violent movies.
The president is rightly demanding action regarding the catastrophe at Sandy Hook elementary school. Most Americans believe that enhanced police presence and increased funding for mental health screening could help. But this shouldn’t be a blank check that doesn’t exist for the president to spend without cuts on frivolous and unsustainable government programs. What there is lest of a mandate for is a broad, sweeping gun ban without full consideration of exactly what types of weapons we are talking about and if the change in policy is warranted by the facts.