A growing number of Americans, including Democrats and Republicans, view gun violence as a major problem, and a majority expect it to get worse over the next five years, according to a new poll from Pew Research.
While the poll, which was released Wednesday, found that twice as many Democrats as Republicans say that gun violence is a “very big” problem in the nation — 81 percent of Democrats compared to 38 percent of Republicans — Pew noted that, over the last year, the number of people in both parties who believe gun violence is a “very big” problem has increased 11 percent.
The growing concern about gun violence comes amid an increase in mass shootings. According to a database maintained by USA Today and Northeastern University, the number of mass shootings in the country in 2022 was the second-highest since the two organizations began tracking these incidents in 2006. So far this year, 28 mass killings have occurred, according to the database, all involving guns.
Mass killings in Columbine, Colo.; Newtown, Conn.; Las Vegas and Orlando indelibly marked the nation in the past quarter-century. This year, gun violence in Allen, Tex.; Nashville and Michigan State University put 2023 on pace to set a modern record.
Per the Pew poll, 60 percent of Americans believe that gun violence is a “very big problem” in the country today, while 23 percent believe it is a “moderately big problem.” Thirteen percent say it is “a small problem,” while only 4 percent believe gun violence is “not a problem at all.”
The poll also found that 62 percent of Americans believe that the level of gun violence will increase over the next five years — twice as many as those who believe it will stay at around the same level.
Pew also found that, since 2021, the share of Americans who believe that violent crime is a major problem has increased from 52 percent to 64 percent among Republicans, and from 44 percent to 52 percent among Democrats.
Still, members of both parties remain split over gun ownership. Pew found that 79 percent of Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP believe that gun ownership increases safety, while 78 percent of Democrats and those independents who lean Democratic believe it decreases safety.
Last summer, President Biden signed into law a bipartisan gun-control bill — the most significant legislative action taken on gun control in three decades — that was the result of negotiations by a handful of Republican and Democratic senators, led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.), in the wake of mass shootings in Uvalde, Tex., and Buffalo.
While members of both parties celebrated the measure, Democrats, including Biden, conceded that it did not go as far as they or gun-control advocates wanted.
In addition to providing funding for mental health services and school security initiatives, the legislation expands criminal background checks for some gun buyers, bars a larger group of domestic-violence offenders from purchasing firearms, and funds programs that would allow authorities to seize guns from troubled individuals.
According to the Pew poll, the share of Americans who believe gun laws should be stricter has shifted only slightly, from 53 percent in 2021 to 58 percent today. While a majority of women — 64 percent — believe gun laws should be strengthened, only 51 percent of men believe the same.
Notably, 77 percent of Black Americans believe gun laws should be stricter, alongside 74 percent of Asian Americans and 68 percent of Hispanic Americans. Among White Americans, 51 percent believe the same.
Research released in April from KFF found that 42 percent of Black Americans have personally experienced being threatened by a gun, seeing someone injured with a gun or having a family member killed by a gun, including by suicide. Nearly six in 10 Black Americans say that a family member has experienced one of those things. For Hispanic Americans, the figure is 54 percent. Fewer than half of White Americans report having family members come that close to gun violence, and only about a quarter of Whites have personally experienced any such threats or violence.
Grand jury indictment means Texas could seek death penalty against accused killer of 5
Francisco Oropesa, 38, was charged in May for the killings in the town of Cleveland in April. Police said he shot the people in the
neighboring home after they asked him to stop firing his gun so close to their property because it was waking a baby...
Birds get electrocuted on power lines. But people shooting at birds perched on power poles may be even more of a problem. In a survey of five sites in the western United States, two-thirds of birds found dead beneath power lines had been shot.
Avians found dead along power lines are often assumed to have died from electrocution, especially if their bodies show burns or singeing, said Eve Thomason, a wildlife biologist at Boise State University in Idaho. But the animal may have been injured or killed before getting zapped.
“We really need X-rays to understand fully what may have happened,” said Ms. Thomason, who used to work for a utility surveying power lines to assess the risk they posed to birds.
In the new study, published Tuesday in the journal iScience, Ms. Thomason and her colleagues walked along 122 miles of power lines in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming, collecting 410 bird carcasses. Back in the lab, the researchers X-rayed the birds, looking for evidence of gunshot wounds or other trauma.
“Most of them were coming back with bullet fragments in them or shotgun pellets,” Ms. Thomason said. Of the 175 birds for which they determined a cause of death, 66 percent had been shot, the scientists reported.
There have been anecdotal reports of such shootings. But “this is the first time somebody has done a large-scale study at multiple sites to figure out if this is a problem,” said Todd Katzner, a research wildlife biologist at the United States Geological Survey in Boise and one of the study’s authors. “This is way more prevalent than we had previously understood,” he said.
The sites vary in proportion of birds shot, said Libby Mojica, a wildlife biologist and ornithologist at the engineering firm EDM International who was not part of the study. At two sites, all deaths were attributed to gunshots. But at another, shootings accounted for 39 percent of deaths and a similar percentage of deaths were from electrocution. It’s not clear how widely applicable the findings are, but even the lowest percentage makes for a large number of birds, she said.
The dead birds were mostly ravens and raptors, the group that includes eagles, hawks and falcons. Killing these animals is illegal under several U.S. laws. And shootings, including those at power lines, may be placing populations of some birds, such as golden eagles, in danger.
Illegal shootings are “an overriding issue that just perplexes the heck out of me,” said Brian Millsap, an ornithologist at New Mexico State University. Dr. Millsap wasn’t part of this study, but he has collaborated with Dr. Katzner. “There’s just been a ton of work done to get the word out that raptors aren’t the vermin that they were thought to be,” he said.
With all the effort that state fish and wildlife agencies, nongovernmental organizations and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service have put into educational campaigns, researchers had assumed that shootings had declined.
Electrical utilities that own the power poles are liable for bird deaths from their infrastructure, Ms. Mojica said. Some large electrical utilities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to reduce the risk of avian electrocutions. But if birds are dying because of crimes, that shifts the blame away from power companies and may mean different conservation actions are needed, she said.
Still, electrocutions remain a problem at power poles in some places, Dr. Millsap noted. Recent work that he and his colleagues have yet to publish found that, in parts of Texas and New Mexico, some 34 percent of golden eagles that survive to leave their nests are electrocuted within their first year of life, he said. That is occurring in places where utilities haven’t prioritized retrofitting poles to make them raptor safe.
The researchers are extending their study into Nevada and working to understand what motivates people to shoot at protected birds. But preventing illegal kills is challenging, Dr. Millsap said. Enforcement and prosecution takes time, and the strategy can be undercut by judges who issue low fines.
Nonetheless, Pete Marra, an ornithologist at Georgetown University who has studied the decline of North American bird populations but wasn’t a part of this study, said the work was important in fighting bird extinctions. “What’s essential in order to stop the declines of birds is to understand what’s causing the declines of birds,” he said.
Supreme Court revives federal ghost gun restrictions
The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to freeze a lower court order that bars the
government from regulating so-called ghost guns – untraceable homemade weapons -
as firearms under federal law.
The brief order grants the Biden administration’s request to allow the regulations to
remain in effect while legal challenges play out.
The vote was 5-4. Roberts and fellow conservative Barrett joined with the court’s
three liberals to allow the rule to take effect.
Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh would have denied the application...
Figures for 2021-22 covering elementary and secondary schools show a total of 327 shootings, 188 of which ended with casualties
Schools in the United States are suffering an alarming rise in shootings, according to new federal data that shows the number of incidents reaching a historic peak for the second year running.
Data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) records that in 2021-22 public and private schools, spanning both elementary and secondary levels, incurred a total of 327 shootings – a record high. The incidents involved a gun being brandished and fired or a bullet hitting school property.
Of the 327 events, chronicled by NCES as part of its annual crime and safety report, 188 ended with casualties, and of those some 57 caused deaths.
The rash of shootings amounts to a doubling of incidents on the year before, which was itself higher than any year since records began 25 years ago. In 2020-21, covering the start of the pandemic, there were a total of 146 school shootings, 93 of which caused casualties (including 43 with deaths).
The number of shootings that led to no deaths or injuries also showed a startling increase. In 2021-22, there were 139 shootings without casualties, more than double the 53 registered the year before.
The rise in recorded shootings is so dramatic between the two most recent years for which figures have been compiled that the NCES warns that the data should be interpreted “with caution”. Yet the data is likely to heighten concern about the safety of American schools, and intensify calls for more rigorous gun controls.
The NCES report shows that public schools across the country have already ramped up extraordinary security measures over the past decade. Some 97% of schools now control access to their premises, 91% use security cameras, and 65% have security staff present at least one day a week.
The proportion of schools that provide mental health assessments to evaluate students for mental health disorders has also risen to more than half.
Sarah Burd-Sharps, of the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement that the new figures were distressing. “The threat of gun violence at our schools and in our communities has become a constant in our children’s lives, yet school shootings are not inevitable – they are the result of years of policy inaction.”
The new federal report stops short of providing figures for 2022-23, the year in which the mass shooting in the Robb elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 students and two teachers dead. Though the latest incidents have yet to be processed by the federal agency, shootings continue to occur in schools with troubling frequency.
On Tuesday, a student was killed and two others injured at St Helena high school in Greensburg, Louisiana, after an active shooter opened fire.
The report gives granular detail on the type of shooters involved and the situations in which the incidents occur. Almost all shooters were male, and by far the largest proportion of them were minors – more than 70% of active shooters were aged 12 to 18.
The most common scenario was an escalation of a dispute, accounting for 28% of the shootings lodged in 2021-22. Drive-by shootings amounted to 12%, illegal activity 9%, accidental firing of a weapon 5%, and intentional property damage also 5%.