The massacre generation: Young people and attitudes about mass shooting prevention

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Vegter, Abigail
Middlewood, Alexandra T.

Vegter, Abigail, and Middlewood, Alexandra T.. 2022. “The massacre generation: Young people and attitudes about mass shooting prevention.“ Social Science Quarterly 1-13.


Objective: We propose that citizens navigate an increasingly complex social and political world using a “cultural toolkit” shaped by firearms and gun violence. Young people in particular have experienced more mass shootings than any previous generation and have witnessed a lack of government response to these massacres. This article explores the attitudes that members of the Massacre Generation express about mass shooting prevention. Methods: We analyze data from several public opinion surveys conducted following major mass shootings in the United States using ordinary least squares and logistic regression. These surveys were fielded and sponsored by a variety of organizations and asked a nearly identical question about whether mass shootings can be prevented by societal and governmental action. Results: We find that the Massacre Generation is indeed more likely to think the government can prevent mass shootings by implementing stricter gun control laws. We find evidence of these attitudes in multiple public opinion surveys from 2012 to2018. Furthermore, we find no age effect in multiple surveys conducted between 1999 and 2011, suggesting that these attitudes are a relatively new phenomenon. Conclusion: Young people today express that government regulation (i.e., stricter gun laws) can prevent gun violence, placing them at odds with older generations. We discuss the implications of our findings for gun policy development and the future of the gun debate.

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