Poll: Most Teens Fear Shooting at Their School Despite Rarity

57 percent expressed concern even though research indicates school shootings are becoming rarer

Kristi Gilroy (R), hugs a young woman at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School / Getty Images
• April 24, 2018 5:00 am


A new poll released on Wednesday found a majority of American teens were worried about a potential shooting taking place in their school despite how rare school shootings are in the United States.

Fifty-seven percent of those aged 13 to 17 told the Pew Research Center they worried about the possibility of a shooting occurring at the school they attend. Thirty-two percent said they were somewhat worried while another 25 percent said they were very worried about a shooting.

The poll, conducted among 743 teens between March 7 and April 10, comes in the wake of the high-profile school shooting in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 dead and garnered several weeks of nationwide media attention. Some survivors of the shooting have become the face of a new gun-control group called the March for Our Lives, which held marches last month that also garnered a great deal of national media coverage.

The poll also comes after researchers at Northeastern University announced their finding that school shootings are rare events in the United States and are happening at a less frequent rate than in the 1990s.

The Northeastern research team found that "on average, mass murders occur between 20 and 30 times per year, and about one of those incidents on average takes place at a school." They said the rate of students killed in school shootings has fallen dramatically since the early 1990s and is now only a quarter of what it once was.

"The thing to remember is that these are extremely rare events," James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern said. "There is not an epidemic of school shootings."

Another recent study found that parents overestimated the likelihood of a shooting at their children's school. Researchers from the University of North Carolina, Ball State University, and the University of Toledo found that 36 percent of parents believed it was "highly likely" their local high school would have a gun incident in the next three years. Only 8.6 percent of parents, however, indicated knowing of a firearm incident at their local high school over the past five years.

The Pew Research Center poll also found parents of teens were worried about a shooting at their child's school with 63 percent saying they were concerned to some extent.

The poll also asked teens which gun policies they believed would prevent future school shootings. Fifty-seven percent of teens said that preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns would be very effective at stopping school shootings. Fifty-five percent said improving mental health screening and treatment would be very effective. Forty percent said the same for putting metal detectors in schools.

Thirty-nine percent said they believed banning "assault-style-weapons," as the March for Our Lives has advocated, would be very effective at stopping future school shootings. Twelve percent believed letting teachers and school officials carry guns, which President Trump has supported, would be very effective.

Pew said the teens' views closely mirrored adults' attitudes on which policies would be most effective at stopping school shootings with teens only being slightly more in favor of banning certain guns and slightly less in favor of allowing teachers to be armed.

Published under: Guns, Schools