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Public perception of gun violence skewed

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 5:57 p.m.

Public perception skewed

A majority of Americans think violent gun crime is more of a problem than ever, according to a Pew Research Center study released on Tuesday, when the reality is that it has declined significantly.

According to the survey, done in March, 56 percent of Americans believe gun crime is worse than it was 20 years ago. And 84 percent believe that in recent years, gun crime has increased or stayed the same.

“The public doesn't get its feelings out of crime statistics,” said Alfred Blumstein, an urban systems professor at Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University. “The public gets its feelings from particularly notorious events and what the press talks about.”

David Hemenway, a professor at Harvard's School of Public Health, called Pew's findings “not surprising at all.”

He said a recent case that attracted national news, in which a 5-year-old boy in Kentucky accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old sister, was an example of a relatively commonplace event that, in light of the national focus on guns at the moment, became national news.

“Every week or so, something like that happens,” he said. “But that's the focus now, so people are not surprisingly misled.”

— USA Today

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