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Poll: Americans say mental issues to blame for mass shootings, not U.S. gun laws

By Doug G. Ware
Poll: Americans say mental issues to blame for mass shootings, not U.S. gun laws
A new poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News revealed that 63 percent of those surveyed said mass shootings in the United States are the result of deficiencies in people's mental health and the mental health system -- as opposed to perceived lax gun laws. Of the Republicans surveyed, 82 percent said mental health is to blame, compared with just 46 percent of Democrats. Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Americans believe mass shootings, like the one that killed nine people at an Oregon college earlier this month, are largely the result of mental health deficiencies in the United States not ease of access due to lax gun laws, a new poll indicates.

The survey, conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News, posed several questions on a multitude of topics, including gun violence.

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"Do you think that mass shootings in this country are more a reflection of (problems identifying and treating people with mental health problems) or (inadequate gun control)?" one question asked.

Sixty-three percent of those questioned responded that mass shootings are a reflection of mental deficiencies. Twenty-three percent cited a lack of gun control. Ten percent said both were contributing factors, 3 percent said neither were factors and 1 percent had no opinion on the matter.

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Meanwhile, the poll question's responses were sharply partisan. The survey showed 82 percent of Republicans said mental deficiencies are to blame, compared to 46 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents who believed the same.

Nine people were killed by a gunman on Oct. 1 at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., and two were killed in shootings at other campuses in Texas and Arizona eight days later.

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In June, nine were killed in a shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. Authorities said the suspect, Dylann Roof, 21, had illegally purchased a handgun that was ultimately used in the attack -- leading some to believe lax gun control measures were to blame for that incident.

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As is typically the case, the recent mass shootings have once again raised the issue of increased gun control by some and the protection of gun rights by others.

The day of the Oregon shooting, President Barack Obama reiterated his belief tighter gun laws are needed. Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has expressed a similar opinion.

"Each time this happens I am going to bring this up. We can do something about it," Obama said Oct. 1. "But we are going to have to change our laws. And this isn't something I can do my myself."

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In August, lawmakers drafted a mental health reform bill that is partially geared toward better detecting potentially dangerous patients before they can carry out an act of violence.

The Post and ABC News surveyed more than 1,000 people and the poll carries a margin of error of 3.5 points.

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