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Hamilton College National Youth Opinion Poll

Youth and Guns

Released: August 21, 2000

Executive Summary

Nine out of 10 American high school students support key handgun control proposals, according to a new poll conducted by researchers at Hamilton College. The Hamilton College Youth and Guns Poll is the first national survey to probe high school students' attitudes toward gun issues. This survey of more than 1,000 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors was designed and analyzed by Hamilton Sociology Professor Dennis Gilbert and his students. It was wholly funded by Hamilton's Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center and administered by the polling firm Zogby International. The poll had an expected margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Among the poll's main findings are the following

  • Support among high school students for the most commonly discussed handgun control and gun safety measures is almost universal.
  • High school students back handgun regulation at higher levels than respondents in recent adult surveys
  • High school students believe that the Constitution protects the right of citizens to own guns. But they reject the idea that government regulation of the sale and use of handguns violates this right.
  • Almost half of high school students say it would be easy for a teenagers to obtain a handgun in their neighborhood. A third report that they know of someone at their school who has been threatened with a gun or shot at.
  • There is a notable gender gap in gun attitudes among high school students. Majorities of males, but much larger majorities of females, support gun control and safety measures.
  • Many high school students are potential gun control activists -- willing to sign petitions, participate in demonstrations, and volunteer their time to obtain passage of stricter gun laws.

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