Young people, mass shootings, & gun rights: It’s complicated

Cherokee High School classmates of 22-year-old Christina Grimmie, from left, Samantha Clark, Bill Shaw, Colleen Kilburn and Casey Graham, hold candles at the end of a vigil to honor Grimmie Monday, June 13, 2016, in Evesham Township, N.J. Hundreds of people have gathered for a candlelight vigil in the New Jersey hometown of the singer who was gunned down after a Florida concert. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Cherokee High School classmates of 22-year-old Christina Grimmie, from left, Samantha Clark, Bill Shaw, Colleen Kilburn and Casey Graham, hold candles at the end of a vigil to honor Grimmie Monday, June 13, 2016, in Evesham Township, N.J. Hundreds of people have gathered for a candlelight vigil in the New Jersey hometown of the singer who was gunned down after a Florida concert. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Mass shootings often occur in places with a young population — at schools, colleges, and even movie theaters. The shootings of the past week are no exception. The first shooting (not a mass shooting, but a murder of a rising music star at her concert) ended in the death of a 22-year-old girl. Nearly all of the people killed by Islamic terrorist Omar Mateen at Pulse Nightclub were in their twenties and thirties. A few were even in their teens.

The first people on the scene of a shooting are also likely to be young adults. According to the Department of Labor, over half of all EMTs are under the age of 25. Police officers and firefighters are also typically under age 50.

During an attempted mass shooting at Seattle Pacific University, a student ambushed the shooter while he was attempting to reload his weapon, sprayed the shooter with pepper spray, wrested the gun away, and held the shooter in place until the police arrived at the scene. The bystander, Jon Meis, was 22 years old at the time. Stunning video of the 2014 event was just released to the public.

Despite being the generation most often victimized by mass shootings, millennials are less likely to live in a household with a firearm than members of any other generation. In 2014, Pew Research found that over 1 in 4 adults under the age of 30 lived in a home with a firearm — our parents and grandparents are more likely to live in armed households.

Since we’re not usually living with firearms, does that mean that millennials want gun control? We don’t all agree. What we do agree on, however, is that something has to change. Millennials want universal background checks — a sentiment that was shared by over 80% of respondents to a recent to a USA TODAY/Rock the Vote poll, regardless of party identification. In that same survey, 58% of millennials were in favor of preserving Second Amendment rights.

Our generation helped lead the charge for gay rights. Finally, we are seeing that gay rights — and the right to self-defense of all marginalized groups — go hand-in-hand with gun rights. The Pink Pistols, an organization that advocates for firearm self-defense training among the LGBT community, has seen its membership more than double since the shooting in Orlando. The youth position on gun rights is a work in progress, with a renewed sense of urgency that progress must be made.


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