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Fueling Surge in Demand for Stricter US Gun Laws, Poll Shows Six in 10 Fear They Could Be Next Victim of Mass Shooting

Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer appealed directly to President Donald Trump to support stricter gun control, amid inaction by Mitch McConnell in the Senate

Demonstrators call for firearms control and protest against gun violence in the U.S. after a string of high profile massacres across the nation, at a rally in Los Angeles on August 17, 2019. (Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

The hundreds of mass shootings which take place each year—including three high-profile attacks in the last month—have left the majority of of U.S. residents living in fear that they or their loved ones could be among the next victims of the violent epidemic that lawmakers refuse to address year after year.

An ABC/Washington Post survey found six in 10 Americans fear being shot in a mass shooting.

Such widespread fear was evident earlier this month on social media after a gunman armed with a semi-automatic weapon killed seven people in Odessa, Texas:

As this concern grows, policymakers are facing increased calls to take action to stop the crisis which has included nearly 300 attacks so far this year—including several last month, when the nation watched news coverage of two mass shootings within 13 hours of one another in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. A total of 53 people were killed in mass shootings in August.

Background checks for all gun purchases, including those that happen at gun shows and online, which have been subjected to loopholes, continue to have high support among Americans. Eighty-nine percent of the people surveyed by ABC/The Washington Post said they support universal background checks.

Red flag laws, which have been passed in 17 states and Washington, D.C. in recent years and which allow law enforcement agencies to take away a gun from an owner if the person is found to be a danger to him or herself or others, had the support of 86 percent of respondents.

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A majority of those surveyed support a ban on military-style semi-automatic firearms, often called assault weapons, including 43 percent of people from gun-owning households.

Nearly 60 percent said stricter gun control legislation would help to stop the mass shootings that they've come to fear. The public has pushed for such legislation increasingly loudly since survivors of the February 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida organized nationwide rallies and school walkouts to demand far-reaching gun control reform.

The group of young activists behind the March for Our Lives was among those that rejoiced last February when the Democratic-led House passed H.R. 8, a bill to require background checks on almost all gun purchases in the U.S. But for more than half a year, advocates have watched angrily as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote, saying President Donald Trump would not sign it into law.

With this in mind, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appealed directly to the president on Sunday, just before lawmakers were to return to Washington after a recess, calling on him to take "a historic opportunity to save lives" by aligning with the majority of Americans on gun policy, rather than the pro-gun lobby.

"Urgent, personal intervention is needed to stem the endless massacres of our fellow Americans by gunfire," wrote the lawmakers.

The NRA opposes H.R. 8 along with other gun control proposals, and after last month's shootings in El Paso and Dayton the president told the powerful lobbying group that background checks were "off the table."

Pelosi and Schumer implored the president not to "squander" his unique opportunity to save the lives of Americans "by acceding to N.R.A.-backed proposals."

"Legislation approved by pro-gun groups will do nothing to stop the continuing, horrific spread of gun violence and may, in some cases, actually make our communities less safe," wrote the Democratic leaders.

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