Gun reform language affects US attitudes toward issue

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By Renee Lewis / Al Jazeera America / Nov. 5, 2015

The language used to describe gun-related legislation affects U.S. attitudes towards the issue, a poll released Thursday concludes.

The word “control,” in particular, is correlated with whether Americans support or oppose gun reform, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll, in which half of the respondents were asked one question while the others were asked the same question with different wording.

When respondents were asked if they support “stricter gun control laws,” 46 percent said yes and 51 percent answered no. But when those surveyed were asked if they support “stricter gun laws,” 52 percent answered yes while 45 percent said no, according to the poll.

“American voters just don’t like the term ‘gun control,’” Tim Mallory, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a statement. “But they believe overwhelmingly there should be background checks.”

Republicans and Democrats alike overwhelmingly support requiring background checks for all gun buyers — at 93 percent to 5 percent, the poll found.

Current laws on background checks apply only to federally licensed dealers, although nearly half of gun sales in the U.S. take place at private gatherings or gun shows, which do not require those checks.

Between 1994 and 2010, the FBI processed more than 100 million background checks on people trying to buy a firearm. Just 2.1 million of those applicants, or 1.8 percent, were denied for reasons including a pending felony charge, mental incompetence, unlawful immigration status, dishonorable discharge from the military, or a domestic assault conviction or restraining order.

Despite widespread support in recent years for stricter laws on gun ownership, Congress has failed to pass new laws, in the face of intense lobbying by pro-gun groups.

Mass shootings in the U.S. are occurring with increasing frequency. A Harvard study released last year showed that the rate of such events has tripled since 2011. There have been 319 mass shootings so far in 2015 — more than one mass shooting per day according to Mass Shooting Tracker, a crowd-sourced list of such events. That total includes 22 mass shootings since a gunman stormed Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon on Oct. 1 and killed 10 people.

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