Americans support stricter gun laws: Poll

Washington, Jan 29 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Following several mass shootings, including a rampage at a Connecticut school that left 20 children and six adults dead, a majority of Americans said they support wide ranging new policies to reduce gun violence.

"This consensus should propel forward comprehensive legislation aimed at saving lives," said professor Jon Vernick in a statement about the study that he helped conduct with other researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study titled "After Newtown - Public Opinion on Gun Policy and Mental Illness" was published online in The New England Journal of Medicine.

"The majority of Americans are in favour of policy changes that would ultimately increase safety," Vernick said.

The poll found 89 percent of those questioned support universal background checks for all gun sales, and 69 percent were in favour of banning the sale of military-style semi-automatic assault weapons, which have been used in recent US mass shootings.

The poll also found 46 percent of gun owners were in favour of banning semi-automatic assault weapons.

An assault weapons ban was introduced in the US Senate last week, but chances of it passing Congress are remote.

The survey also found that 68 percent support banning the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines that can hold massive amounts of bullets as well as policies that would prohibit high-risk individuals from having guns, including juveniles convicted of serious crimes.

Researchers conducted a second survey focused on mental illness.

They found that 61 percent support increasing government spending on mental health treatment as a strategy to reduce gun violence.

"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," said Colleen Barry, lead study author and associate professor.

According to the researchers, gun violence in the US claims 31,000 lives each year and the "rate of firearms homicides in America is 20 times higher than it is in other economically advanced nations".

--IANS/RIA Novosti

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