Gun violence bigger problem than police brutality, say black voters

gun violence

A man marches through the streets of Chicago shortly after a 9-year-old boy was murdered as part of a gang retaliation. (Photo: Alyssa Schukar / The Guardian)

Results from a recent phone survey released Thursday show gun violence and incarceration rates are currently a bigger concern for minority voters than police brutality.

The survey was conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group from Feb. 22-28 and, as part of a report focused on reducing gun violence and improving law enforcement and the criminal justice system, was commissioned by the Joyce Foundation, the Urban Institute and the Joint Center for Political and Economic studies. A total of 1,200 registered voters – 600 African American and 600 Hispanic – who said they were likely to participate in this year’s election, were asked their feelings on a number of political and societal issues.

In 2014, gun violence was the leading cause of death among young black males and the second leading cause among Hispanic males between the ages of 15 and 34, the report noted.

“We need to listen to those most affected by gun violence and make sure their voices are heard as we formulate solutions,” said Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

When asked, “How much of a problem do you think gun violence is in America today?” 80 percent of black voters responded that it was an “extremely serious problem,” while only 54 percent of Hispanic participants gave the same answer.

And while both groups see police brutality as a much less serious problem, the two races were more divided on the severity of it. When asked, “How much of a problem is police misconduct in America today?” 50 percent of black voters said “extremely serious,” while less than half that number of Hispanic voters – only 24 percent – answered the same.

Additionally, 69 percent of black participants and 43 percent of Hispanics said they believed the incarceration rate was “extremely serious.”

Voters were also asked about different approaches to reduce gun violence, with black voters more inclined to support socioeconomic services for prevention, which they feel addresses the root problem as it pertains to crime, as opposed to background checks for gun purchases. Some 94 percent of black participants – and 93 percent of Hispanics – supported “investing in community programs including job training, mental health services and programs specifically for young people,” with 93 percent – and 89 percent of Hispanic voters – showing support to “increase funding for job training, life skills support, and mental health and drug abuse counseling for people returning to the community after they’ve served their time in prison.”

Overton noted, “Gun violence thrives in economically-challenged areas and areas that have easy access to firearms.

Some 92 percent of black voters and 94 percent of Hispanic voters said background checks should be required for the purchase of every gun, including those bought at gun shows, online and through private sales. Approximately 87 percent of blacks and 91 percent of Hispanic participants supported stiffer penalties for those who engage in illegal gun sales, with 90 percent of both races supporting measures that would require gun owners to notify law enforcement in the event a firearm is either lost or stolen.

Likewise, when asked about strengthening “accountability for police officers by implementing civilian review boards, body cameras for police officers, and the ability for police chiefs to fire officers who repeatedly exhibit racial bias,” 91 percent of black voters and 93 percent of Hispanics supported such suggestions. When asked if participants believe law enforcement officers help keep their communities safer, 80 percent of Hispanic voters said yes, compared with only 62 percent of black voters.