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February 01, 2013

Study Reveals Youth Attitudes about Guns


The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

Despite growing up in a post-Columbine world, more young people plan on owning a gun than had them in their childhood homes, according to a national poll of more than 4,000 high school and college students conducted by Jennifer L. Lawless (American University) and Richard L. Fox (Loyola Marymount University). This finding suggests a possible reversal of a trend that pointed to decreasing gun ownership.

More specifically, one-third of young people report growing up with a gun in the household. And 36 percent report being “very worried” about gun violence. Yet nearly 40 percent of respondents plan to own a gun when they have their own household, and an additional 20 percent are considering it.

These results are based on a national sample of 2,100 college students (ages 18 through 25) and 2,166 high school students (ages 13 through 17). The poll, conducted by American University / GfK Custom Research LLC, was in the field from September 27 – October 16, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points.

Key Findings:

Personality Traits: Roughly 50% of young people who self-identify as “depressed,” “stressed out,” and/or have “difficulty making friends” plan to have a gun in their household.

Video Games: High school students who regularly play video games for more than 4 hours per day are 50 percent more likely than those who do not typically play video games to report plans to own a gun. The results are similar, but less pronounced, among college students.

Gender Gap: Girls and young women (40%) more likely than their male counterparts (32%) to fear gun violence and less likely to report planning on owning a gun in the future.

Race Gap: Half of the Black respondents fear gun violence, compared to only 31 percent of White respondents. Blacks are less likely than Whites to report planning on owning a gun in the future.

Party Gap: Democrats are nearly twice as likely as Republicans to fear gun violence (45% compared to 25%) and less likely to report planning on owning a gun in the future.

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