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Two Broad Approaches to Preventing School Shootings

by Frank Newport

Americans continue to be more likely to say that policy makers in Washington should focus on making major changes to school security measures and the mental health system than on making major changes to laws on the sale of guns and ammunition. However, more favor focusing on gun laws than did so five years ago.

Choice of Two Approaches to Prevent School Shootings
If you had to choose, which approach to preventing future school shootings should the president and Congress focus on -- making major changes to the laws on the sale of guns and ammunition, or making major changes to school security measures and the mental health system?
Laws on the sale of guns and ammunition School security measures and mental health system
% %
2018 Mar 5-11 41 56
2013 Jan 19-20 30 65
  • By 56% to 41%, Americans are more likely to say the government should change laws related to "school security and mental health system" rather than the "laws on the sales of guns and ammunition" as the best way to prevent future school shootings.

  • Gallup last asked this question after the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2013. The responses have become somewhat more evenly balanced versus five years ago, with an 11 percentage point increase since 2013 in prioritizing changes to gun laws. While the school safety and mental health approach prevailed by 35 percentage points in 2013, the current gap is 15 points.

  • Republicans and Democrats have overwhelmingly different responses to this choice. Eighty percent of Republicans favor the safety and mental health approach, while 61% of Democrats favor focusing on guns.

  • Gallup also measured Americans' views on seven specific proposals for ways to prevent school shootings. Of the four proposals Americans favor most, three deal with school safety protocols and mental health, while one -- background checks -- deals with gun regulations. Smaller majorities of Americans favored raising the age at which guns can be purchased and banning sales of semi-automatic weapons.

  • The U.S. House this week approved a school safety bill that focused exclusively on school security and mental health policies, including money to train school officials and first responders, increasing school security and providing money to develop programs to deal with possible threats. The bill passed overwhelmingly with almost unanimous votes of both Republican and Democratic House members.
Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 5-11, 2018, on the Gallup U.S. Poll, with a random sample of 1,515 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The favor/oppose list question was asked of a random subsample of 767 adults, and the effectiveness list question was asked of a random sub-sample of 748 adults. For these results, the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Poll works.