Student Poll Finds Many Using Guns
A new nationwide survey finds startling numbers of students in the 6th to 12th grades who say they have shot at someone or have been shot at themselves.
The survey of 2,508 students in 96 schools across the country by the pollster Louis Harris, painted a bleak portrait of violence and fear among American schoolchildren. Some experts expressed doubts about that portrait, but the pollster defended it and the survey on which it was based.
Nine percent said they had shot at someone at some time; 11 percent said they themselves had been shot at in the past year. Nearly 40 percent of the students said they knew someone who had been killed or injured by a gun, and 15 percent said they had carried a gun within 30 days of the survey.
Several experts on guns were skeptical about the results, saying the figures were higher than those in any previous survey. They suggested either that the sample might have been skewed because it was conducted in just 96 schools, so a number of children in a single school could have known of the same violent incident.
“These estimates would imply numbers that dwarf those known to the police,” said Gary Kleck, a professor of criminology….
Several experts said they were particularly surprised by the finding that so many students said they had been shot at or had shot at someone. That figure is far higher than any previous survey. For example, Professor Kleck said, the 1990 National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted annually by the Census Bureau, indicates that at most 2 percent of students between the ages of 12 and 19 were the victims of crimes involving guns. In Gallup Youth surveys dating from 1981, 3 to 5 percent of teen-agers reported being personally assaulted by any means.
Another figure that struck several experts as high was the report that 15 percent of teen-agers said they had carried a gun within 30 days of the survey. A 1991 survey of 9th to 12th graders conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported that 2.9 percent of students had carried a gun….
Whatever the numbers, it was clear from the poll that many students lived in fear of violence….