Here’s what young people think about police violence and guns
The survey findings below are summarized in the report “Gun Violence, Policing, and Young Communities of Color – July 2016” which can be downloaded here.
The recent police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have raised important questions on the issues of gun violence, policing, and communities of color in the United States. Most importantly, the increased media attention to this issue shines a light on the ways that people of all genders, races, ages, and classes develop political opinions on these societal conditions.
In over ten years of studying the voices and experiences of young people of color, we have found that teens and young adults hold strikingly different stances on guns, police, and violence in the United States. Using data collected between 2009 and 2013, we found that young people ages 18-29 vary greatly in their perspectives on these issues especially across racial lines.
One of the most interesting findings from our research shows that young Blacks and Latinx people fear victimization from gun violence at about the same rate. Just about 40% of each group were either very afraid or somewhat afraid of victimization from gun violence. Conversely, only 16% of young White people reported being either very or somewhat afraid of falling victim to gun violence.
These data are supported by our findings on young people’s feelings of threat in their own neighborhoods. Nearly all of young White people reported that gun violence was not much of a problem or not a problem at all in their neighborhoods. For young Black people, 69% felt that way. Likewise, 76% of young Latinx people felt similarly.
The findings in both table 2 and 3 show that young White people do not feel the same fear of gun violence that young Black and Latinx people do. One of the common narratives about gun violence is that “Black on Black” crime is a major issue. However, it seems that young people of color are very much in lockstep when it comes to gun violence in their personal lives.
These sentiments are also important when considering the types of gun control laws and reforms young people support. Table 4 shows that young Black and Latinx people overwhelmingly support stricter laws for gun ownership. Roughly 76% of young Black and 70% of young Latinx folks suggested that this was a top priority for gun rights. In contrast, over half of the young white people in our data said that protecting rights of gun owners was most important versus 43% who preferred control of gun ownership. These data show vastly different priorities across racial groups on the issue of gun ownership and control.
While these opinions are critically important in the development of policy surrounding guns in the country, a pressing issue facing young people of color is the issue of police brutality.
In our study, most young White people reported that they trust police (72%) and believe that police are in neighborhoods to protect them (80%). About 60% of Latinx people responded that they trust the police and 74% believe police protect them. Overall, these numbers suggest that both young Whites and young Latinx people hold relatively satisfactory views of police authorities.
On the other hand, only 44% of young Black people replied that they trust police and 66% believe that police are in neighborhoods to protect them. Most importantly, 54% of these young people reported having experienced harassment or violence at the hands of police officers while only 33% of young Whites and 25% of Latinx people reported the same.
Overall, these findings show that young people of different racial backgrounds have exceedingly varied opinions on guns and police. These opinions are informed by their personal experiences in their own homes and communities. These findings are critical in understanding the best ways to address gun and police violence moving forward.
Read the full report on our Black Millennials in America page.
Photo: Wiki Commons