Growing Up With Guns

by Julie Ray, Contributing Editor

Of the dozens of pieces of firearm-related legislation introduced in this congressional session, one bill passed the House Wednesday and is on its way to the Senate. However, to the chagrin of gun control activists, rather than requiring more accountability from gun makers and dealers as some proposed legislation does, this bill grants them immunity from lawsuits arising from people's misuse of firearms.

How do American teens feel about the strictness of laws that deal with firearm sales? How many teens are growing up with guns in their homes? Gallup asked teens these questions earlier this year as part of its 2003 Gallup Youth Survey*.

Teen Opinion on Firearm Sale Laws

A majority of 13- to 17-year-old teens (54%) say they feel that laws covering firearm sales should be made more strict, and 34% feel that they should be kept as they are now. Only 10% of teens feel the laws should be made less strict. These views are very similar to what Gallup finds among the U.S. adult population.

While a majority of teens believe that firearm sales laws should be made more strict, certain groups are more likely to feel that way than others are. Girls are significantly more likely than boys to want stricter firearm sales laws, with 66% of girls saying the laws should be made more strict, and 43% of teen boys saying the same. These gender differences mirror those observed among adults when Gallup asked them a similar question.

Gun control issues are highly politicized. Historically, Republican lawmakers have tended to oppose legislation restricting gun sales, while Democratic lawmakers have tended to support such legislation. Among adults, those who politically identify themselves as Democrats and independents are significantly more likely than those who identify themselves as Republicans to say that laws covering firearm sales should be made more strict. However, teen opinion doesn't show quite the degree of partisan difference as adult opinion -- 46% of Republican teens favor stricter laws, compared with 54% of Democrats and 60% of independents.

Guns in the Home

Forty-two percent of teens report that there are guns in their households, consistent with the percentage of U.S. adults with children at home who say they have guns in their homes**. However, majorities of teens and adults say that they do not have guns in their homes.

According to the youth survey, teens with guns in their homes are most likely to be white and live in the Midwestern or Southern United States. Forty-nine percent of Southern teens and 48% of Midwestern teens have guns in their homes, compared with 29% of Northeastern teens and 35% of Western teens. White teens (51%) are significantly more likely than either black teens (20%) or Hispanic teens (27%) to say that they have guns in their homes. These percentages are in line with racial and ethnic statistics from national gun ownership studies***.

According to Gallup adult data on this question, Republicans are more likely to have guns in their homes than those who politically identify as Democrats or independents. This pattern of guns in the home plays out in the teen data as well. Fifty-two percent of teens who say they will vote Republican when they are old enough also say they have guns in their homes. Forty percent of Democratic teens and 37% percent of independent teens say the same.

Guns in the Home vs. Gun Laws

Are teens who don't have guns in their homes more likely to support stricter firearm legislation? Yes. Sixty-five percent of teens who don't have guns in their homes say that the laws should be made more strict, versus 39% of teens who have guns in the home. Further, teens with guns in the home are somewhat more likely to say that firearm sales laws should be kept as they are now, rather than made more strict.

*The Gallup Youth Survey is conducted via an Internet methodology provided by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel that is designed to be representative of the entire U.S. population. The current questionnaire was completed by 1,200 respondents, aged 13 to 17, between Jan. 23-Feb. 10, 2003. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3%. For a complete description of the sampling and weighting procedures used to conduct the survey, click here.

**Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,002 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 14-17, 2002. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3%.

***Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig, Guns in America: Results of a Comprehensive National Survey on Firearms Ownership and Use (Washington D.C.: Police Foundation, 1996).


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