Dangerous people or dangerous guns? effects of news media messages about mass shootings on attitudes toward persons with serious mental illness and public support for gun control policies
Respondents were randomly assigned to read one of three news stories or to a no-exposure control group. News stories described (1) a mass shooting; (2) a mass shooting and a SMI gun restriction proposal and (3) a mass shooting and a large-capacity magazine (LCM) ban proposal. Outcome questions assessed desired social distance from and perceived dangerousness of persons with SMI and support for SMI gun restrictions and banning LCMS. Results indicated that compared to the control group, exposure to a story about a mass shooting heightened respondents' negative attitudes about persons with SMI and raised support for both gun control policies. Including information about SMI gun restrictions in a story about a mass shooting did not shift public attitudes or policy support. The aftermath of mass shootings, like the recent tragedy in Newtown, creates an opportunity to garner support for gun control policies, but also contributes to negative attitudes toward those with SMI.
Learning Areas:Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Describe how news media coverage of mass shootings influences public attitudes about persons with serious mental illness. Describe how news media coverage of mass shootings influences public support for gun control policies.
Keyword(s): Mental Illness, Firearms
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Emma E. McGinty, MS, is a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University. She is the first author of Public opinion on proposals to strengthen U.S. gun laws: Findings from a 2013 survey. In Webster DW and Vernick DW, Eds., Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.