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June 12, 1996

The American Public and the Gun Control Debate

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass (Dr Blendon, Mr Young, and Dr Hemenway) and the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass (Dr Blendon).

JAMA. 1996;275(22):1719-1722. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530460023013

AS THE 1996 presidential election approaches, national opinion surveys show that public concern about violent crime will be one of the key election issues. A recent survey1 reports that two thirds of Americans indicate that a candidate's position on crime would be important in deciding their vote for president.

An important aspect of the broader debate over what to do about violent crime is the question of gun control. We can expect that as the election race heats up and the crime issue becomes more hotly debated, gun control will be an active part of that debate and will emerge as a major issue in its own right.

On 1 side of the question are candidates who propose toughening gun control laws, especially on handguns. In opposition are those who call for limiting government's regulation of gun ownership and, in particular, advocate the repeal of the Brady Act and

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