Gun Violence Becomes Top Issue For More Voters Following Recent Mass Shootings

The shift in public opinion comes the same day that Walmart announced changes to gun policies.

A woman touches a cross at a makeshift memorial for victims outside Walmart, near the scene of a mass shooting which left at least 22 people dead, on August 6, 2019 in El Paso, Texas.
Mario Tama / Getty Images

The shift in public opinion comes the same day that Walmart announced changes to gun policies.

Following recent mass shootings throughout the United States that have claimed dozens of lives, a growing number of voters say that the most important issue facing the United States is gun violence, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll published Tuesday by The Hill.

According to the poll, 27 percent of voters said that gun violence was their top issue leading into the 2020 election. That puts gun violence as No. 3 on the list of most important issues to voters, just behind health care and immigration.

That number is up from just 20 percent of voters who were surveyed in the same poll the month prior. The increase gave gun violence a jump from No. 5 on the poll.

Mark Penn, a co-director of the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, told The Hill that a positive perception of economic performance allows voters to view other issues, like gun violence and health care, as more important. According to The Hill, 57 percent of Americans surveyed said they approved of the current economic performance.

The poll was released the same day that American retail giant Walmart announced that it would change gun policies at its stores following the recent shootings, the deadliest of which was at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, per CNBC.

Walmart announced earlier Tuesday that it would stop selling all handgun ammunition and short-barrel rifle ammunition that can be used with assault weapons like the ones that have been used in past mass shootings. The retail giant will also ask customers to refrain from open-carry practices even in states where doing so is legal, per CNBC.

The 21-year-old shooter in the El Paso tragedy killed 22 people earlier this month and injured two dozen others when he opened fired with an assault rifle in an act that was called domestic terrorism by federal authorities, per CNN. The shooter allegedly targeted the area because of its high population of Hispanic residents.

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Meanwhile, there was another shooting over the weekend in Texas. Seven people were killed and 21 were injured in a drive-by mass shooting in Midland and Odessa, Texas, cities near Houston. The shooter drove along highways and streets and aimed his weapon toward residents, other drivers and people who were shopping, according to The New York Times.

Police eventually shot and killed the drive-by shooter, who was a man in his mid-30s. Police said they hadn’t immediately determined a motive for the shooting, per The New York Times report.

The Labor Day weekend shooting occurred in the same month of the El Paso shooting and a shooting in Dayton, Ohio. The gunman in Dayton killed nine people. Those shootings occurred just after a shooting in Gilroy, California in July at a festival where a gunman killed three people and injured 13 others.