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Poll Explores Teens' Attitudes Toward Guns

Poll Explores Teens' Attitudes Toward Guns

By Sharon Rippey, Director of Media Relations  |  Contact Holly Foster 315-859-4068
Posted August 21, 2000
Nine out of 10 American high school students support key handgun control proposals, according to a poll conducted by researchers at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.

Almost half of the students surveyed say it would be easy for a teenager to obtain a handgun in their neighborhood, and one-third report that they know of someone at their school who has been threatened with a gun or shot at. The Hamilton College Youth and Guns Poll is the first national survey to focus on high school students' attitudes toward gun issues.

"High school students agree with the N.R.A. that we have a constitutional right to own guns," said Dennis Gilbert, professor of sociology, Hamilton College, who oversaw the survey. "But they reject the idea that government regulation of handguns violates our rights."

Almost all students interviewed support the following handgun control measures: 89 percent favor a five-day "cooling off period" for gun purchases; 96 percent favor government registration of all handguns at the time of purchase; 90 percent favor licensing of handgun owners; and 92 percent favor background checks for all buyers.

This survey of more than 1,000 randomly selected high school sophomores, juniors and seniors was designed and analyzed by Gilbert and his Hamilton College students. The poll had an expected margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percent, and was administered by Zogby International, an independent public opinion research firm.

"Gun violence is having a devastating effect on our nation's young people," said Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron whose organization participated in the release of the survey. "It is encouraging that young people are so willing to take action to stop gun violence. The First Monday 2000 campaign will harness their energy and mobilize a new generation of activists to promote common sense solutions to gun violence," Aron said. (First Monday 2000 is a program of the Alliance for Justice, a national association of public interest advocacy organizations located in Washington, D.C., and Physicians for Social Responsibility.)

Additional findings include:

  • High school students back handgun regulation at higher levels than adults. For example, 96 percent of high school students favor handgun registration, compared to 75 to 80 percent of surveyed adults.
  • High school students believe that the Constitution protects the right of citizens to own guns (81 percent). But more than 80 percent of the students agree that the "government should do everything it can to keep handguns out of the hands of criminals, even if it means that it will be harder for law abiding citizens to purchase handguns."
  • Many high school students are potential gun control activists -- willing to sign petitions (43 percent "very likely), participate in demonstrations, and volunteer their time to obtain passage of stricter gun laws.
  • Support for gun control is greater among minority students than whites. For example, 76 percent of minority students support "stricter guns laws" versus 63 percent of white students.
  • There is a notable gender gap in gun attitudes among high school students. Majorities of males (52 percent), but much larger majorities of females (79 percent), support stricter gun laws.

Gilbert said, " I was surprised that things like family income, parents' education, and geography didn't make a difference. But the gender gap is huge. Among high school students girls are much more likely than boys to favor handgun regulations."

* * * The Youth and Guns Poll was funded by Hamilton College's Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center and administered by the polling firm Zogby International. Hamilton College is a highly selective residential college in Clinton, NY, offering its 1,750 students a rigorous liberal arts curriculum.

First Monday 2000 is a program of the Alliance for Justice, a national association of public interest advocacy organizations located in Washington, D.C., and Physicians for Social Responsibility. The more than 125 co-sponsors of First Monday 2000 include the Million Mom March, Handgun Control Inc., the American Bar Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Education Association, the Children's Defense Fund, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Zogby International is the internationally renowned public opinion research firm with a 15-year record for survey accuracy. In its history, Zogby International has accurately predicted 15 national and international elections that no other national or international polling firm came close to predicting correctly.

(Go to our gun survey website for the detailed poll and results: Gun Survey )


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