OPB poll shows most voters want mental health fix for mass shootings

OPB News, Oct. 21, 2015

Most voters in Oregon and Washington think mass shootings – like the one earlier this month at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg – are the result of untreated mental health problems.  More than half of voters in the two states think mass shootings are avoidable.

Those are among the findings of a recent DHM Research Poll conducted between Oct. 8-11. The poll surveyed 400 Washington residents and 400 Oregonians likely to vote in the 2016 general election. The margin of error is 3.5 percent. But for individual states it is 4.9 percent.

Mass shootings are mostly the result of“We see wide support for mental health screenings and treatments,” said John Horvick, vice president and political director at DHM Research in Portland.

Horvick said the poll was looking to measure what people think are the causes of mass shootings, not the causes of gun violence.

“Respondents see mental health as a primary driver of mass shootings,” Horvick said. “There’s support for policies that would reduce these events.”

One thing a majority of voters in both states supported was requiring a mental health screening to purchase certain weapons.

The poll also found 42 percent of Oregon voters own a gun compared with 34 percent of Washington voters.

Mass shootings can be prevented byTrenton McKinney, who has a background in electrical engineering, lives in Beaverton. Both McKinney and his wife each own a handgun and a .22 rifle.

“Honestly, I think if somebody wants to get a gun and kill a bunch of people and go out in a blaze of glory, I don’t think there’s anything that can be done to stop it,” he said.

McKinney said he leans more Democratic and is in favor of mental health screenings for those who want to purchase a firearm.

He is also among the 75 percent of poll respondents who support imposing a waiting period on the purchase of guns.

McKinney said he’s also in favor of limiting the number of guns that can be purchased at one time and would support a national gun registry.

“Because of the ubiquity of guns in our environment it seems pretty easy for people to get guns,” he said.

Poll respondents were roughly split about a policy that would encourage more law-abiding citizens to carry guns in an effort to prevent shootings. The poll found 49 percent oppose such a policy while 46 percent support it.

Kathryn Heim, who leans more Republican, lives in Pullman, Washington. She doesn’t own a gun, but she doesn’t mind people carrying them.

She said a policy that would encourage more law-abiding people to carry guns would not prevent shootings.

“I’m not against people having guns,” Heim said. “Most of the time your weapon gets used against you.”

The poll found 45 percent think mass shootings were the result of laws that were too lenient. But 52 percent disagreed. And 38 percent of poll respondents agree “mass shootings are caused by gun control laws that are too restrictive.”

Heim disagreed with that sentiment.

“The gun didn’t kill the person,” she said. “The person killed the person.”

Heim said she’s not opposed to longer waiting periods for those wanting to buy a gun. And she’s in favor of restricting certain weapons.

“If you’re not in the military you should not have an assault gun,” she said. “If you have a violent tendency, if you’ve been convicted of a violent act, you shouldn’t have access to weapons of mass destruction. Guns fall into that.”