Los Angeles Times – July 20, 1993

59% of Schoolchildren Surveyed Say Handguns Are Easy to Get

Citing an emerging “gun culture” among school-age children, a new poll released Monday found that more than half the nation’s sixth-through 12th-graders said they “could get a handgun if they wanted one” and more than a third that they believe they could get it “within an hour.”

The Louis Harris poll, sponsored by the Joyce Foundation in Chicago and prepared for the Harvard School of Public Health, found that 59% of the students surveyed nationwide said guns are easily obtainable, while 35% said it would take them less than 60 minutes to get one.

“Many young people in America today are immersed in what properly might be called a gun culture,” said pollster Harris.

Deborah Leff, president of the Joyce Foundation, a liberal philanthropic organization, said that the poll dispels the myth that gun violence “is a common problem only of urban minorities. The fact that guns permeate everyone’s life, including schoolchildren, is what is so disturbing about this poll.”

Leff said the findings reveal that guns are a staple commodity in nearly all demographic groups. She noted that students of all races reported easy access to handguns-blacks (72%), whites (55%), Latinos (69%) and Asians (47%).

Among the findings:

More than one in five (22%) of the students claimed that they carried a weapon to school during the last school year, with 4% saying that the weapon was a handgun.

Almost two in five (39%) said that someone they know personally has “either been killed or injured from gunfire,” while 9% claimed that they had fired a gun at someone.

A “hard-core” group of young people-about one in six of those surveyed seem inured to possession and use of handguns, said Harris. But, he noted, a majority would like to see an end to the gun culture….

Twenty-two precent said they would have a better chance of surviving a physical fight if they had a handgun.

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%, was administered by Harris pollsters in randomly selected classrooms in rural, suburban and urban public schools across the nation. The 12-page confidential questionnaire was answered by 2,508 students between April 19 and May 21.

Leff said that the poll was commissioned as part of a study aimed at raising awareness of gun violence as a public health issue.

The Foundation sponsored the poll because “you can’t expect kids to fix this situation, unless adults become more involved and informed on this issue,” she said.