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In the News: School Shootings

A shooting at a high school in Benton, Kentucky, on Tuesday left at least two students dead and 17 others injured. This shooting came a day after a similar attack at a high school in Italy, Texas, and was the ninth school shooting in 2018 alone.

School shootings have plagued the U.S. for decades including, most notably, the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado and the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

Public Opinion Context

  • A quarter of U.S. parents (24%) in an August 2017 Gallup survey said they fear for their children's safety while they are at school. Parents' concern about children's safety had peaked at 55% following the Columbine shooting in 1999, but declined quickly. It has spiked after other high profile school shootings.

US Parents' Fears of Children Being Harmed at School
  • More broadly, nearly four in 10 Americans (39%) reported in an October 2017 Gallup poll that they were "very" or "somewhat" worried that they or a family member will be a victim of a mass shooting. This survey came soon after the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas, which left 58 dead.

  • School shootings often reignite debate about gun control laws. Six in 10 Americans (60%) said they favored stricter laws on the sale of firearms, in Gallup's October survey. However, slightly less than half, 48%, favored a ban on assault weapons, while only 28% favored a legal ban on handguns.

  • For the first time in Gallup's trend, a slim majority (51%) of Americans said they favored the passage of new gun laws, as opposed to the stricter enforcement of existing laws (47%).

  • About four in ten Americans (41%) said stricter laws would reduce the number of mass shootings. Fifteen percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said stricter laws would reduce the number of mass shootings, compared with 63% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.


Calls for stricter gun control laws are sure to follow these most recent school shootings, and a clear majority of Americans would support it. In fact, Americans are more supportive of the passage of new gun control legislation than at any time in Gallup's 18-year trend. However, less than half believe these laws will reduce the number of mass shootings.

The challenge for lawmakers will be to craft legislation that would both reduce gun violence and win enough support from gun rights' advocates to be able to pass.


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