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Americans Conflicted About How Arizona Tragedy Could Have Been Prevented

A new Gallup poll out today highlights how difficult it is to deal with the Arizona shooting from a public-policy standpoint. While the majority of Americans want policies put in place to prevent these kinds of attacks from taking place in the future, there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus as to what those policies would be.

Stricter gun control was the top choice on the list, with 24 percent of respondents saying it could prevent mass shootings. But oddly, Americans were less convinced that gun control would have specifically stopped the Arizona shooting — seven out of 10 said it wouldn’t have made a difference in that case, according to a previous Gallup poll. That’s similar to another Gallup poll from 2007, which found that the majority of Americans didn’t think stronger gun control would have prevented the Virginia Tech shootings.

“The public’s instinctive reaction when asked about shooting prevention is to talk about guns, perhaps because these types of mass shootings by definition involve individuals with firearms shooting other individuals,” said the Gallup study.

The idea of “stricter gun control” does seem like a good preventative measure, hypothetically. But the actual facts of the attacks in Arizona and at Virginia Tech make it obvious to the public that gun-control laws probably wouldn’t have prevented the shooters from obtaining a firearm.

In fact, it doesn’t appear that any of the suggestions on the Gallup list would have had much of an effect on the shooting in Arizona. Better mental-health screening and support — which was the most popular choice after gun control — are only helpful if the person in need of the support cooperates. Teaching kids about violence and the proper use of guns came in third on the list. But just because someone knows the proper use of guns doesn’t mean he’ll use one lawfully. Other possibilities included extensive background checks on gun purchases, stricter security measures at public gatherings, and increased public awareness of danger — all of which have their own limitations.

So while the policy proposals being tossed around in Washington may help lawmakers feel like they’re doing something helpful and productive, at the moment, there just aren’t any ideas on the table that will make a big difference in the long run.



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