Gun violence has surged ahead of the opioid crisis as Americans' top public health concern, according to the latest edition of the Axios-Ipsos American Health Index. A spate of recent mass shootings may have focused attention on the issue in ways that weren't apparent in the last poll in February, Axios reports. Some 26% of respondents said "access to guns or firearms" is the No. 1 threat to U.S. public health, up from 17% in February; 25% said the biggest threat is opioids and fentanyl, virtually unchanged since the last poll' 20% said obesity, also almost unchanged. COVID-19 slipped to the bottom of public health threats at 3%, tied with smoking, alcohol abuse and unsafe driving.
Other recent polling has shown an uptick of concern about gun violence, especially in schools. A KFF survey found 1 in 5 U.S. adults said they've personally been threatened with a gun, and 1 in 6 have personally witnessed someone being shot. There's been an increased push to portray gun violence as a public health issue, with experts factoring employer costs, insurance claims, mental health counseling and other variables. Former GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wrote this month that "deaths from firearms has grown into an official public health crisis" and called for a "fresh look" at what should be done about it. "With the ongoing drumbeat of tragic mass shootings, it should not be a surprise that access to guns has risen to be one of America's top public health concerns," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.