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Fear Of Violent Crime Rises, Especially Among Republicans

Steve Bridges parked his pickup truck at the Texas Boot Factory and he saw a man step out of the car beside him and slip a gun under his belt. It was three days after two cheerleaders opened the wrong car door in a supermarket parking lot nearby and were shot. Bridges, a 63-year-old contractor, had tried to picture how that could happen in Elgin, Tex., where violence is rare, the Washington Post reports. “It all goes back to the fear,” he said. “Why are cheerleaders getting shot for opening the wrong door? Why is a grown man scared to go into a boot store without carrying his weapon? Why are these people so afraid?” In the U.S. over the last month, at least four men have opened fire on someone who’d stumbled upon their space, resulting in one death, two injuries and a car pocked with bullet holes. The apparent acts of snap-aggression have reinvigorated the debate around the prevalence of “stand your ground” laws and a pressing question: Why are people so quick to pull the trigger on strangers?

Why did a 65-year-old man kill a 20-year-old woman who had accidentally pulled into his Upstate New York driveway? Why did an 84-year-old man fire two bullets into a 16-year-old boy who had mistakenly knocked on his door in Kansas City? Why did a 43-year-old man in South Florida shoot at a 19-year-old Instacart delivery driver and his 18-year-old girlfriend who had arrived at the wrong address? Experts blame the easy availability of guns, misconceptions around stand-your-ground laws, the marketing of firearms for self-defense and a growing sense among Americans Republicans, that safety in their area is deteriorating. Since 2020, the share of Republicans who said crime is rising in their community has jumped from 38 percent to 73 percent, said a Gallup survey last fall. Among Democrats, that same concern climbed 5 percentage points to 42 percent, marking the widest partisan perception gap since the polling firm first asked the question a half-century ago. A Washington Post analysis of 80 major police departments’ records found that reported violence in 2022 was lower than the five-year average. The National Criminal Victimization Survey showed the number of people reporting sexual assault, robbery and other physical attacks is overall much lower now than in the 1990s and has not increased in recent years. Homicides and thefts did rise during the pandemic, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data — though not to the levels of the 1990s.

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