Sustainability Fact: Gen-Z and gun violence — part of our everyday lives and why we’re stuck

Young protesters take to the streets after the devastating Parkland shooting in 2018. Credit: Deposit Photos

By Saul Myhre, Alliance Intern from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities ’21

The possibility of gun violence breaking out in any public situation confronts those of us in Gen-Z every day. We’ve all gone through active-shooter drills and 25% of us have been in an actual active-shooter lockdown, according to PBS NewsHour. On average, almost every member of Gen-Z knows at least one person who has been either injured or killed by gun violence. A majority support stricter gun control, but more than 40% of young people have “somewhat easy access to a firearm.” Guns have killed more than 24,000 in the US so far this year. 

Many young people feel that gun culture is “connected to who they are as individuals,” reported PBS NewsHour. This separates American thinking from other countries. Youth engaged in gun culture “have higher scores on racial resentment and male supremacist ideas.” They also believe more racially diverse places are more dangerous. These beliefs are furthered by media echo-chambers. Fear-mongering is exacerbated so that many people who believe in gun control end up accepting our gun culture.

Even though Gen-Z votes “decidedly with Democrats” according to NPR, American gun culture continues to permeate. One can argue that racism and male supremacy contribute to the gun culture and also vice-versa, but ultimately the US must tackle both simultaneously if we are to make significant strides in either. It is the fear that stems from mass shootings that beckon some to call for stricter gun control and some to buy more firearms. As a politically split society, we must work with each other and learn from one another if we are going to put an end to our dangerous reputation

America bears “more than about half the incidents and about half the lethality” in circumstances of terrorism and/or extremism. According to a 2023 CNN poll, 64% of Americans believe in stricter gun control laws, yet nothing has changed from a federal standpoint. The poll finds near-universal public support (94%) for a proposal to prevent certain people from owning guns, such as convicted felons or people with mental health problems. That is up 7 points from 2018. Meanwhile, a proposal to prevent people younger than 21 from buying any type of gun stands at 80%, up 9 points from five years ago.

Why are we continuing to allow our governmental institutions to lie dormant while over half of the country begs for change? How many more lives are we willing to sacrifice to stagnant policymaking? The answer may be that there is a clear partisan divide, as 92% of Democrats and 65% of independents support new restrictions on guns compared with only 36% of Republicans. It also has to do with the fact that senators from rural states have a disproportionate number of votes.

If you’d like to join the growing movement to end gun violence, go to and message your US representative to ban assault weapons and expand background checks. It only takes a few minutes to make an impact. 

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