Research 3—The New England Journal of Medicine

A national debate is sparked every time there is a national tragedy. The debate on gun control is no different. There exists a wide variety of opinions on gun control. In reviewing scholarly articles, a piece titled “After Newtown—Public Opinion on Gun Policy and Mental Illness” by Colleen Barry, Emma McGinty, Jon Vernick, and Daniel Webster caught my eye.

Summary & Analysis

The piece is clearly pro-gun control, but it presents a new point on this conversation—government must take public opinion into consideration when forming new laws. The authors also propose that mental illness is one of the main causes behind mass shootings, so we as a public must rethink the way we treat mental health and people suffering from mental diseases.

Written in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the authors connect it to the “highly publicized mass shootings in Arizona and at Virginia Tech” in that all three shootings involved shooters who were mentally ill and used high-capacity magazines.

In order to prove their point on public opinion, they conducted a national survey. This transparency, in explaining every single detail of their survey, why they chose to take different samples, and, most importantly, the dates of the survey. By reporting the dates in this specific scenario, they can show how public opinion changes so rapidly after a mass shooting. All of this, however, contributes to the legitimacy of this article. They even included where they presented their findings, which were quite revealing.

Table 1
Table 1, cont.

In sorting through the mass amounts of data the authors provide, there is an alignment toward the standard statistics that have been uncovered through other surveys, in that 22% of people own guns, and 11% of people live in a house with a gun in it. Yet, moving into public opinion on gun control laws becomes more interesting. According to the article, the majority of respondents to the survey support all but four of the 31 gun policies that were presented to them. Many people support higher restrictions on certain people from owning guns, but it gets even more in-depth. The authors state, “Even policies banning the sale of military-style semiautomatic weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines were supported by more than 65% of the general public.”

In fact, even the difference between gun-owners and non-gun-owners were almost negligible. Gun-owners supported laws that prohibit gun ownership for people convicted of violating a domestic violence restraining order, and agreed that there should be greater universal background checks in general. Although gun-owners opinion on semiautomatic and large-capacity magazines varied more than non-gun-owners, a surprising find was that the policies one group didn’t support, the other group didn’t support as much either.

Table 2

When it came to mental illness, however, it got a little strange. Both groups supported laws that prevent people with mental illnesses from owning guns, however, when it came to mental illness in general, both groups expressed a neutral opinion. They agree on spending money to help treat mental illness especially in houses that own guns, but that was about it. This shows that there is still a wide need to reduce the stigma on mental illness and to institute gun-violence-prevention measures.

However, when it comes to the author’s transparency and legitimacy, there are no questions that need to be asked. Although they did not refer to all their findings, the tables provided do. All their sources are cited, the data appears to be presented completely, without leaving anything out, and anything that needed to be clarified was clarified.


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