crime, Guns, Politics, Spring 2018 Articles

Nearly Half of NC State Students Come From a Household With a Gun


About  47% of NC State students come from a firearm toting family compared to 49% who are positive their parents do not possess firearms.  A majority of undergraduate students know their parents own at least one gun, but only one-third of graduate students have parents that own firearms.  The percentage of NC State students that personally own a gun is much lower at 16%.  Intriguingly, undergraduate students do not seem to be any more likely to own firearms than graduate students.  Male students are far more likely to own a gun than female students by a 21% to 9% margin.

Students are almost evenly split on whether owning a gun is worth the risk.  About 39% of students think having a gun in the house makes it more dangerous as opposed to 37% who thinks it makes students safer.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, an overwhelming majority of gun owners think a firearm makes the house safer.  Non-gun owners are much more skeptical about the benefits of guns with a plurality saying guns make a house more dangerous.

Similarly, a majority of students who grew up with a gun think having a gun in the house makes the house safer.  Indeed, students whose parents own a firearm are 35 percentage points more likely to think guns bring safety to the owner.

Regardless, non-gun owners are more likely to fear being the victim of a crime; indeed non-gun owners are more likely than gun owners to perceive worsening crime rates in the US. Despite rising slightly in 2015 and 2016, violent crime rates have declined in the United States over the last 10 years.  Nonetheless, a majority of NC State students think violent crime has gotten worse over the last decade.  Indeed, despite perceptions to the contrary, the United States is safer today than during our childhoods, bleak media coverage notwithstanding.

NOTE ON METHODOLOGY:  This PackPoll took place February 22-25, 2018. We administered the survey over the internet to a random sample of 3,500 NCSU undergraduates and 3,500 NCSU graduate students. The true population of undergraduates and graduate students taking at least one face-to-face class on campus is 21,192 and 7,113, respectively. However, 44 students are minors and 814 more have privacy flags preventing contact, slightly reducing the population eligible to be sampled. Each student remaining in the population had an equal chance of being contacted because each student is required to have a unique “” email.

Of those invited to participate, 712 undergraduates and 731 graduate students completed the survey, a total of 1,443, resulting in a 21% response rate.  Assuming a 50-50 division in opinion calculated at a 95 percent confidence level, the margin of sampling error for the sample is (plus or minus) +/-2.5% for questions answered by the full sample. However, sampling error increases for each estimate when three or more choices were offered, for example, when fewer respondents were asked a version of a question, or when analyzing the opinions of sub-groups, such as when looking just at how female respondents answered a question.

The response rate for just the undergraduate student sample is 20%, and 21% for graduate students. Likewise, the margin of sampling error for describing the opinions of just undergraduates in this survey is +/-3.6%, while it is +/-3.4 for graduate students.

In addition to sampling error, other forms of non-sampling error occur in surveys, such as confusion about question wording or the order of questions, and non-response bias (low response rates), but these types of error are not precisely quantifiable.

We only apply post-stratification sample weights for student status when describing the opinions of “all” students.  Undergraduates comprise 75% of the student population, but just 49% of our sample, so weighting is necessary to accurately describe the views of all students. There is a slight under-representation of males in our undergraduate sample, but not enough to warrant further weighting of that population it would not produce noticeable effects on any of the results.


  1. This is not even remotely close to a representative sample of NC State. You polled roughly 700 undergraduate students out of 24,000. This is a biased, far-off article looking for attention as you try to fit an agenda

  2. Landon, you might want to check out our resources page to understand why a sample size of 700 (we invited 3,500, randomly selected, to participate) can represent a population of 24,000 with a margin of sampling error of about plus or minutes 3.5%. Also you could read our methodology statement which clearly states this.

    What “far-off” aspect to these results are you referring to? What could possibly be the agenda? We asked if students had a gun, and if their parents owned one. We also asked how students felt about crime and gun policy.

    I look forward to hearing you elaborate on these thoughts.

  3. Some of this doesn’t really come as a surprise. A non-negligible portion of graduate students are internationals, many here on visa rather than being full citizens. Because you cannot own a firearm as a non-citizen, this has an obvious impact on the numbers of firearm ownership for graduate students. In addition, many countries graduate students commonly come from, such as India, do not allow private ownership of firearms, at least not to the same extent as the United States.

    I do find it striking that across all categories, a plurality of students believe violent crime is getting worse. Viewed over a 10-year window, this claim is demonstrably false. This could go to show that both sides use supposed increasing violent crime to justify their respective positions. “Gun crime is getting worse, which supports the claim that we should further restrict firearm purchases and legal types of weapons” and “increasing gun crime is a good reason to own a firearm for self-protection” are both arguments that could be made from this claim of increasing violent crime rate, even though this claim appears to be questionable when considering a 10-year period rather than a 2-year period. There is some merit to the idea that both sides contain individuals who hold their respective positions emotionally, given the above.

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