Firearms become top public health concern among Americans, poll shows

A new national poll shows access to guns and firearms has become top of mind for many Americans.

A poll by Axios-Ipsos shows access to guns and firearms jumped to the top spot of public health concerns among Americans polled – surpassing opioids and fentanyl.

According to the poll, 26% of respondents said they believed access to guns and firearms is the top threat to U.S. public health. That number is up from 17% in the last poll in February.

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However, CDC data from 2022 shows the leading causes of death do not include gun-related deaths. It says the leading causes of death in 2022 were heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury and COVID-19.

"If you just look around our city and think about what's been happening in the last few weeks with the roadway rages and all of this stuff and people are pulling guns because they believe that they can and there will be no real repercussions as a result of it," State Rep. Dianne Hart (D-61) said.

The FBI’s most recent data from 2019 shows 73.7% of homicides of which the FBI received weapons data involved a firearm.

"Somebody who is willing to take a firearm and go commit a mass murder or go hurt innocent people," Ryan Thomas, the owner of Warrior Cloud said. "Those are not the law-abiding citizens that are out looking for training and looking to learn on the law. Yeah. So I just think the bigger question is how do you stop a criminal?"

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Thomas is a gun instructor and says gun violence has been a longstanding concern. But he also emphasizes the importance of proper training and, in many cases, using it appropriately in a case of self-defense.

"Part of what we teach is not just using a firearm because frankly, using a gun is the easy part. What we teach is the mindset so that you can be a safe, responsible and competent firearms owner," Thomas said. "What we teach people is how to identify a potentially dangerous situation quickly so that you can then avoid the violent attack before it actually begins."

Thomas says it’s especially important with the recent signing of Florida’s permit less carry law, which will allow people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

Rep. Hart says this new legislation is concerning now more than ever. She says she will continue to push for measures like background check requirements to buy a gun.

"They want their amendment rights to be able to carry their guns and bear arms," Hart said. "Nobody is not saying that you cannot bear arms. What we're saying is use some common sense and allowing people to have guns in their possession."

The permit less carry law goes into effect on July 1. Under the law, the firearm still has to be concealed and secured, and you have to have a valid ID while carrying it.