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People magazine published all Congress members' phone numbers in a call to action on guns

People magazine isn't a place you expect to see a call for political action. But following the Umpqua Community College shooting, People on Wednesday published the phone numbers, email addresses, and Twitter accounts of all 535 members of Congress so readers can tell political leaders to do something about gun violence.

In this week's issue of People, editorial director Jess Cagle wrote:

As President Obama said, our responses to these incidents — from politicians, from the media, from nearly everyone — have become "routine." We all ask ourselves the same questions: How could it happen again? What are we doing about gun violence in America? There are no easy answers, of course. Some argue for stricter gun laws, others say we should focus on mental health issues, some point to a culture that celebrates violence.

But this much we know: As a country we clearly aren't doing enough, and our elected officials' conversations about solutions usually end in political spin.

Cagle didn't go as far as suggesting a specific policy solution, stating that people should use the contact information to voice their own opinions. (Here is the full list of Congress members' contact information.)

What will people tell Congress?

If previous polls are any indication, the public will likely send very mixed signals to Congress.

On one hand, the public generally supports specific gun control policies:

A chart showing support for gun control measures.

Pew Research Center

But they're also supportive of the broad idea of gun rights:

Surveys show most Americans support gun rights.

Pew Research Center

This public divide shows how gun control opponents are able to kill even legislation that would introduce the most popular measures, such as background checks that include private sales (which have 85 percent support, according to Pew): They're able to portray the law as contrary to the right to own guns, and galvanize a backlash against it.

This kind of problem isn't unique to gun policy. For example, although most Americans say they don't like Obamacare, most of them do in fact like the specific policies in the health-care law. The problem is these specific policies have been masked by rhetoric about a "government takeover of health care" and "death panels." Since most Americans don't have time to verify these claims, especially when they involve a massive bill with lots of moving parts, enough end up believing in the catchphrases and scary arguments to stop the legislation from moving forward.

But the empirical research is clear: The US has more gun deaths than other developed nations because, according to the research, Americans have more guns, and more guns mean more gun deaths. So reducing the number of guns — by limiting access to them, or by immediately cutting the supply of them through, for example, buyback programs — would very likely lead to fewer gun deaths.

Of course, lawmakers won't act on that data if they believe it could get them kicked out of office. That's why People's call to action is important.

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