BY 10/26/15 AT 5:07 PM
In the wake of a summer marked by several high-profile mass shootings around the country, the vast majority of Americans agree that gun violence is a problem. But a new poll also found that many more people view mental health issues as the root cause of mass shootings than those who blame a lack of strong gun laws in the U.S.
Eighty-two percent of Americans believe gun violence is a serious problem in the country, and 58 percent called it a “very serious” problem, according to the Washington Post/ABC News poll released Monday.
The poll also found that 63 percent of people believe mass shootings are a reflection of problems identifying and treating people with mental health issues, while 23 percent say such attacks stem from a lack of tight gun laws.
Sharp partisan divisions about the issue were apparent in the poll, as 82 percent of Republicans said mental health is more of a concern than gun laws, compared with 65 percent of independents and 46 percent of Democrats.
But when people are asked about specific policies that would tighten gun laws in the country, Americans overwhelmingly support them, notes Laura Cutilletta, a senior staff attorney for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The recent results don’t show that background checks for all gun sales, which are the top priority for the Law Center, are supported by 92 percent of Americans, 92 percent of gun owners and 86 percent of Republicans, she says, referencing a July 2014 Quinnipiac University poll.
“Yes, we do need to do a better job at identifying and treating the mentally ill. But when it comes to violence, mentally ill people are actually more likely to be victims than perpetrators. We need laws like background checks that keep guns out of the hands of violent people, whether they are violently mentally ill, a domestic abuser or suicidal,” she tells Newsweek.