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In the aftermath of the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, public debate once again turned to what Congress should do to reduce gun violence.
One of the challenges that many policymakers face is understanding the views of the general public. Policymakers tend to be most concerned about the magnitude and intensity of the opposition to stricter gun regulation.
Research - Team - Adults - Months - Number
In late 2016, my research team surveyed 1,115 adults twice, six months apart. We discovered that the number of Americans supporting stricter background checks for gun purchases is growing, and it is growing most among people who previously opposed or were neutral about such regulation.
We asked respondents whether they remembered nine specific acts or attempted acts of violence targeting large numbers of people in the U.S., from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012 up to the bombings in New York and New Jersey in 2016.
Events - Survey - Surveys
Five of these events occurred before the first survey; four occurred between the first and second surveys.
We had two theories as to how Americans' opinions on guns might have changed in the intervening six months.
Events - Public - Acts - Mass - Violence
First, as these violent events continue to occur, the general public might become inured to acts of mass violence, including shootings, and to consider them to be the "new normal." In this scenario, we would expect support for public policies to address gun violence would diminish.
Alternatively, there might be a cumulative effect, where people eventually get to the point of saying that enough is enough. In this scenario, support for gun-control policies should go up.
Levels - Support - Opposition - Number - Policy
We asked about levels of support for, or opposition to, a number of policy proposals, including stricter background checks for all gun purchases, sales bans on assault-style weapons, enhanced airport security and expanded high-tech digital surveillance.
As reported in other surveys, U.S. support for stricter backgrounds checks is...
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