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Most Americans Want Gun Reform — But State Laws Have Loosened Since Uvalde

Lawmakers have largely failed to respond to the hundreds of mass shootings since the shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Families participate in a candlelight vigil dedicated to the 19 children and two adults murdered during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, one year ago.

New polling demonstrates that a majority of Americans believe it’s more important to control gun violence than it is to protect gun rights.

The polling demonstrates that voters believe gun reform is necessary to curtail the vast number of gun-related deaths in the U.S. each year. But lawmakers have largely ignored constituents’ demands, with the majority of gun laws enacted this year granting greater concessions to the gun industry.

The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll published this week asked respondents to answer a simple question: Is it more important to protect gun rights or curb the U.S.’s gun violence epidemic? Sixty percent of respondents said they favored the latter option, indicating support for measures that will curtail gun violence, while just 38 percent said it was more important to protect or expand gun rights.

This is the second-widest margin between the two options since the poll began asking the question in 2013. Only the poll conducted in June of 2022 — one month after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas — had a wider margin, two points greater than the most recent poll’s 22-point spread.

The poll is a show of voter’s dissatisfaction with current gun laws, said Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

“Inaction by lawmakers in Washington on the issue of guns is clearly out of step with public opinion. In fact, Americans see a host of options to address growing concern over gun violence,” Miringoff explained.

Even though Americans are widely in favor of gun reform, congressional gridlock (in the form of a Republican-controlled House and a Senate where the filibuster won’t allow the passage of any meaningful reforms) has created roadblocks to federal action.

Meanwhile, GOP-controlled state legislatures and governors have passed bills and enacted laws to loosen rules on gun ownership.

In the year since the Uvalde shooting, lawmakers have passed 93 bills relating to guns. Of those laws, 56 percent expanded access to guns or provided protections and benefits to the gun industry, while 44 percent restricted access to firearms or provided victims and their families with means to hold the gun industry accountable.

Since Uvalde, there have been hundreds of mass shootings in the United States. There have been more than 240 mass shootings in 2023 alone, and nearly 17,000 people have died due to gun violence this year.

“It’s a mistake,” Rudy Espinoza Murray, head of Moms Demand Action in California, told Axios, referring to the passage of laws loosening rather than regulating gun ownership. “It is costing lives. It really is that simple.”

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