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Most Students Prefer Colleges That Restrict Guns on Campus

Most Students Prefer Colleges That Restrict Guns on Campus

by Zach Hrynowski

Story Highlights

  • 81% of current and potential students say gun policies influence enrollment
  • Most students prefer schools that restrict guns on campus
  • One in three students worry at least a fair amount about gun violence

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the wake of recent gun violence on college campuses in Virginia, Michigan, North Carolina and Nevada, as well as a major legal victory for gun rights advocates in NYSRPA v. Bruen, about eight in 10 current and prospective college students say a college’s policies related to firearms on campus are at least somewhat important in their decision to enroll or remain enrolled.


Regardless of age, gender or race/ethnicity, campus gun policies are at least somewhat important to more than three-quarters of current and prospective students. The largest importance gap across subgroups is a nine-percentage-point difference between Democrats and Republicans; however, more than three-quarters of current and prospective Republican students say campus gun policies are important in their enrollment decisions.

The latest results are from the Lumina Foundation-Gallup 2024 State of Higher Education Study, conducted Oct. 9-Nov. 16, 2023, via a web survey with 14,032 current and prospective college students. This includes 6,015 students enrolled in a post-high school education program (certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree), 5,012 adults not currently enrolled with some college but no degree, and 3,005 adults who have never been enrolled in a postsecondary school or program. Gallup surveyed all groups via an opt-in online panel.

Students prefer more restrictive gun policies by a 5-to-1 margin.

Current and prospective students who indicated these policies were at least somewhat important in their decisions were also asked whether they would prefer schools that “had tough restrictions on gun ownership that banned or made it hard for people to have guns on campus” or whether they preferred a college that “had few restrictions on gun ownership that allowed people to have guns on campus.” Eighty-four percent of these respondents indicated they would prefer to attend a college that banned or restricted the possession of guns.


While partisanship remains the greatest differentiator in policy preference regarding guns, strong majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans who say gun policies are important to them would rather attend a college that restricted firearms on campus. Women and adults aged 18 to 25 are also more likely than their peers to prefer tougher gun restrictions.

One in three current in-person students worry about gun violence on campus.

For some students, campus gun policy preference -- particularly their desire for more restrictive gun laws on campus -- may be related to concerns that they, themselves, may be at risk of gun violence on campus.

One in three currently enrolled associate and bachelor’s degree students who attend at least half of their courses on campus say they worry “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about gun violence on their own campus.


Among students who worry a great deal about gun violence on campus, 92% say gun policies are at least somewhat important in their enrollment decisions, compared with 80% among students who say they do not worry about gun violence at all. That increase in importance leads to both higher percentages of students who prefer tougher gun restrictions as well as those who prefer fewer gun restrictions, perhaps reflecting a split in how students believe they can best be protected -- or protect themselves -- from potential gun violence on campus. Students who worry more about gun violence on campus are slightly more likely to prefer their campus have fewer gun restrictions.


Bottom Line

As gun rights advocates continue to win legal victories regarding firearms and where individuals may carry them, colleges and universities may soon be required to comply with state or federal rulings that update campus gun regulations. In 2023, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the University of Georgia Board of Regents’ policy to allow guns on campus; one year earlier, the Montana Supreme Court vacated a state law allowing concealed carry on Montana University System campuses. A challenge to the University of Michigan’s campus firearms ban has been appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.

More than eight in 10 current and prospective students say these policies are at least somewhat important in their enrollment considerations, and a majority of those who factor gun policies into their decisions prefer a campus that restricts firearms. While many public universities are currently subjected to state laws that govern campus gun policies, those that allow firearms on campus may risk losing potential applicants to other universities that better align with students’ gun policy preferences.

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Learn more about how the Lumina Foundation-Gallup State of Higher Education Study works.


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