Some 74% of young people in the U.S. believe gun violence is a problem, and almost 60% want to see stricter gun laws, according to a new report from American University, the Everytown for Gun Safety and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Researchers polled a nationally representative sample of more than 4,100 people, ages 14 to 30.
Wyatt Russell, senior program manager and policy analyst with the Polarization & Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University in Washington, D.C., said this generation – raised in an era where mass shootings are ubiquitous – says school safety is a major concern and is associated with negative mental health outcomes.
“The average young person knows at least one other person who’s been injured or killed by a gun,” Russell pointed out. “We’ve seen an astonishingly high 25% of youth have been in an active shooter lockdown. Not a drill. A lockdown.”
A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found gun violence was the leading cause of death for kids in 2020 and 2021, more than any other type of injury or illness, which is the highest rate in the world among large, wealthy nations. Opponents of stricter gun laws cite concerns about personal freedom and self-defense.
Russell noted the survey found that a young person’s access to guns, identification with gun culture and exposure to media relating to guns correlated with support for male supremacy, belief that the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to overthrow the government, higher levels of racial resentment and post-traumatic stress disorders.
“We’re working to develop some inoculation strategies to help young people stop harmful myths and disinformation, conspiratorial thinking, and supremacist ideologies that can influence gun violence,” Russell explained. “More specifically, extremist violence, as well.”
Among the young people surveyed, 40% said they have “somewhat easy” access to a gun, and 21% reported having “very easy” access.
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