Four out of five youth agree that the level of gun violence in the U.S. is a problem, according to research from Everytown, SPLC and PERIL
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Guns are the leading cause of death for children, teens, and young adults in the United States, but very little research has been conducted to understand how young people feel about and use firearms – until now. Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Polarization & Extremism Research & Innovation Lab (PERIL) at American University have released a groundbreaking study, U.S. Youth Attitudes on Guns, uncovering insights from more than 4,100 young people across the United States.
The findings reveal how youth access guns, their experiences with gun violence, how safe they feel, and how they think about concepts such as male supremacy, racial resentment and the Second Amendment. It is the first step in a partnership that seeks to combat the rise of extremism, protect young people, and pave a path to a future free of gun violence.
The new report shows broad consensus among young people that America is facing a gun violence crisis: four out of five youth surveyed said that the level of gun violence in the U.S. is a problem, and 60% believe that gun safety laws should be stricter.
“This research shows so clearly that youth want to feel safer—which is no surprise, given that far too many of them have already been in an active shooter lockdown or know someone killed or injured by gun violence,” said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, professor and founding director of PERIL. “Our nation’s youth deserve so much better.”
According to the report, young people feel the impact of our country’s gun violence crisis firsthand: the average young person in the U.S. knows at least one person who has been injured or killed by a gun. This has a direct effect on their mental health: the more people that youth know who were injured or killed by gun violence, the worse they reported their anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms to be.
“Gun violence is a uniquely American problem – and our young people are bearing the brunt of it. Guns are now the leading cause of death for children, teens and young adults in this country. This report makes it clear that a majority of young people want stronger gun laws, and it’s on us to help make that happen,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action and senior vice president for movement building at Everytown for Gun Safety. “Young people are leading the way in confronting this epidemic and finding solutions, but we can’t leave this for the next generation to fix. The findings of this report show the urgent need to address this crisis right now.”
The survey revealed a correlation between a young person’s access to guns, identification with gun culture, agreement with extremist narratives related to firearms, and exposure to media relating to guns, support for male supremacy, higher levels of racial resentment, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“On one hand, this report exposes how white supremacy and antidemocratic ideologies undergird the gun violence epidemic and threatens the lives of young people at home, at school and in communities,” said Susan Corke, director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “On the other, it sheds light on a path forward and offers adults and young people tools to resist the manipulative tactics of extremists who seek to divide and harm us.”
The report provides a foundation for researchers, public health officials, policymakers and educators to better understand and identify interventions aimed at reducing gun deaths and injuries. As a follow-up to the report, Everytown, SPLC, and PERIL plan to release inoculation tools to help adults and young people to spot and stop the spread of harmful misinformation, conspiratorial thinking, and supremacist ideologies.
Read the full report HERE.