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Inside Sources: Gun violence and grief in America

Local residents bring flowers, stuffed animals, candles and posters to honor the memory of the victims of the mass shooting in El Paso on August 4, 2019. (Lola Gomez/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Most U.S. voters believe there should be some restrictions on buying a gun.

National pollster Scott Rasmussen joined Boyd Matheson on  KSL Newsradio’s “Inside Sources” to talk about the recent mass shootings in Ohio and Texas and the 2020 Democratic presidential race.  And he said that polling shows Americans are ready for more restrictions.

Polling results

Rasmussen said polling shows 92% of voters support waiting periods and background checks for firearm purchases. He said about the same number of people support “red flag” laws that remove guns from those who are public threats or mentally unstable. Although there is strong support for those actions, only 38% of people think they will reduce gun deaths in America.

“People don’t understand the real dynamics of gun violence in America,” said Rasmussen. Two-thirds of gun deaths are caused by suicide, he said, but only 11% of voters recognize that’s the top cause of gun deaths.

He said people tend to overestimate the number of deaths caused by gang violence and mass shootings.

“One of the frustrations in this debate,” Rasmussen said, “is people talk right past each other.”

Mis- or non-communication is rampant

He added that a majority of Americans would rather live in a community where guns were allowed for protection and self-defense than in a community where firearms are outlawed.

“The people who have guns have one thought about what they’re used for, and the people who don’t own guns and don’t live in a gun culture have an entirely different perspective,” said Rasmussen.

“You’re caught up in an emotional discussion. People are anxious, angry, worried and horrified. Yet people don’t understand the reality of gun deaths. And they don’t understand what other people are thinking as they are having this conversation,” he said.

“When we speak we speak in a way that makes sense to us,” said Matheson. “In reality, we need to speak in a way that makes sense to the other person.”

“With all of these dynamics that you just laid out, Scott, those are not just hard conversations and emotional conversations. Those are very complex and intricate conversations,” said Matheson. “And I worry that as a nation, we don’t have the patience to have a hard and complex conversation about these kinds of issues.”

2020 Democratic candidates

Rasmussen said 47% of voters nationwide say they definitely plan to vote against President Donald Trump in 2020. He said polling found 46% have said consistently for more than six months that they have a favorable opinion of the president and approve of the way he’s doing his job.

He said the election is likely to be decided by a group of people who really don’t like all of the political rhetoric.

Jennie Taylor talks about grief

Matheson also talked about the two mass shootings with Jennie Taylor who is the widow of Brent Taylor, a former mayor of North Ogden and Utah National Guard major who was killed Nov. 3, 2018, during his deployment in Afghanistan. He was 39.

Citing the victims’ friends and families in Ohio and Texas, Taylor said the grieving process has become so public. But she said that grieving is also private, personal, deep and internal, yet people around the country are grieving with them and want to hear their stories.

“You crave that privacy and want to hibernate and run away from everyone, but you can’t because it’s really such a public loss,” she said.

Matheson asked Taylor about some of the challenges of sharing her grief publicly after the death of her husband in Afghanistan.

“You want to hide in your bed and never come out, but I have seven kids and, obviously, that’s not going to happen,” Taylor said.

She said it was really a powerful moment when she realized that people in town, in the community and around the state weren’t just mourning for her but with her.

“That was such a perspective changer for me,” said Taylor. “We’re grieving together genuinely. They’re not just comforting me. We’re comforting each other because we’re sharing this grief, this sense of loss, this sense of shock.”

Taylor said in the last nine months she has been overwhelmed with the magic in sharing grief.

“You don’t need words when your hearts connect with something like that,” said Taylor.