July 25, 2023
More than 3,500 children and teens are shot and killed each year, 15,000 are shot and injured and an estimated 3 million are exposed to shootings (CDC, 2021; Everytown for Gun Safety, 2021a; Everytown for Gun Safety, 2021b). But there has been very little research exploring how young people feel about guns, what level of access they have to firearms and what shapes their attitudes toward gun ownership and gun violence. Given what we know about the nexus between gun violence and extremist ideologies (Everytown for Gun Safety, 2021c) and the staggering increase in gun sales during the COVID-19 pandemic (Miller, Zhang, & Azrael, 2021), understanding young people's views about the role of guns in society and their lives is of great importance.To explore these topics and more, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Polarization & Extremism Research & Innovation Lab (PERIL) came together to study youth attitudes through: 1) a mixed-methods coding and analysis of online gun-related content in order to assess prominent gun narratives; 2) a quantitative survey using a U.S. national sample of 4,156 youth aged 14-30 and 3) an ongoing (as of January 2023, n = 38) qualitative phase of focus groups/interviews with people aged 14-30 recruited from the survey. We asked more than 4,100 young Americans between the ages of 14 and 30 questions abouttheir access to guns, how safe they feel, their experiences with gun violence, their political views, the media they consume and how they think about male supremacy, racial resentment and the Second Amendment, among other topics. We are conducting ongoing focus groups to further explore how all of these attitudes combine to form the prism through which young people view our country's gun violence crisis.The result is the following report, which provides groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind insights into how young Americans think about and use guns and the ways in which some come to view guns as a "socially imaginable" (Blanchfield, 2022) solution to everyday grievances and frustrations.