Although it’s young people who are rallying for new gun laws in the wake of the Parkland school shooting, polls have shown that millennials actually don’t favor gun control more than older generations.
For the past three years, Gallup has polled Americans as to whether gun laws should be made more strict, less strict or kept the same. Adults between 18 and 30 were only 1 percent more likely to say gun laws should be more strict than the overall national average of 57 percent. “Sometimes people surprise us, and this is one of those instances that we don’t know why,” Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, told NPR. “Young people statistically aren’t that much different than anybody else.”
A 2017 Pew Research Center poll reached the same conclusion: Only fifty percent of millennials (people aged 18 to 36) supported tougher gun-control measures — almost identical to the general population. Millennials did differ from their elders in two categories of gun control: Banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. They’re actually less supportive of those bans than Gen X and Baby Boomers.
The last two weeks may herald a sea change — or maybe not. “What we’re hearing now in the immediate aftermath of Parkland might not be representative of what a whole generation feels,” says Kim Parker, director of social research trends at Pew.
The high-school students leading the charge after Parkland are either under 18 or have just turned 18, making them part of Generation Z. That demographic’s views will become clearer as pollsters begin to survey them this year.
Overall, new polling has shown that support for gun control has spiked to the highest level since just before the 1994 assault-weapons ban. A CNN survey released Sunday shows that 70 percent of Americans support new gun laws, up from 52 percent after the Las Vegas shooting last fall. Even a majority of people living in gun-owning households — 57 percent — back tougher regulations.