America Divided Over One Major Issue

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( – The U.S. sees an annual increase in gun-related fatalities, and a recent study from Pew Research highlights the deep party-political divide over firearm ownership and gun legislation. However, there is growing consensus across the political board about the national concern over gun violence and violent crime.

The study, published on Wednesday, underscores the minimal common ground between Democrats and Republicans concerning firearm ownership and legislation. A substantial 79% of Republicans and those leaning Republican in the survey held the view that owning a firearm enhances safety, while an almost identical proportion of Democrats and those leaning Democrat had opposing beliefs. A bipartisan agreement was only evident in the proposal to limit gun acquisition for mentally ill individuals.

Yet, it seems the country is united in its concern over gun violence, with 60% of the American participants identifying it as a major national issue, a 7-point increase from 2018. There is also a growing apprehension about violent crime among both political factions, with 59% of the respondents labeling it as a significant national concern, also a 7-point rise since 2018. More than 60% predict a rise in gun violence over the next half-decade, with a mere 7% forecasting a decline in the same period.

The rising apprehension over crime is not exclusive to one political party. An increased concern of 52% among Democrats and 64% among Republicans view crime as a major national issue, up by five and four points since 2021 respectively.

While there’s an 11-point increase in concern over gun violence among both Democrats and Republicans, a gap of more than 40 points still persists between the parties, with 81% of Democrats seeing gun violence as a crucial issue compared to only 38% of Republicans.

The Pew data emerges amidst the ongoing rise in mass shootings and gun-related homicides and suicides post-pandemic, contributing to a major campaign focus for Republicans. As per 2021 FBI data, the most current crime data available, that year witnessed 61 mass shootings and 48,830 gun-related deaths.

This escalating situation has led to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, negotiated between Republicans and Democrats in response to various high-profile mass shootings, notably the Uvalde, Texas elementary school shooting in May 2022. The Act, which marked the first substantial gun control legislation in 30 years, extended background checks and increased federal funding for community and mental health programs and was signed into law by President Joe Biden in July 2022.

Despite this step, Democrats and the White House continue to advocate for more federal gun control measures. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) revived the Background Check Expansion Act in February. This bill, facing tough challenges in the narrowly Democrat-dominated Senate and Republican-majority House, proposes the extension of federal background checks to nearly all firearm sales and transfers between private individuals.

President Biden has also expressed his intention to take more action on gun violence, referring to the Safer Communities Act as a crucial initial step during a recent speech in Connecticut, and emphasizing that the task at hand is far from over.

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