Emergency Preparedness, Emerging Issues in Security, Facility Security

U.S. Survey Explores ‘Mental Toll’ of Gun Violence, Attitudes Toward Security Measures

A new, comprehensive survey gauges Americans’ concerns about gun violence and what steps they’re willing to take to feel safer in public areas.

Weapons detection company Evolv Technology commissioned market research firm Equation Research to survey over 2,000 U.S. adults from Oct. 20 to Oct. 28, 2021. Evolv says the resultant report, Guns in America: A Survey on Public Violence, Anxiety, and Threats, reveals the “mental toll” gun violence takes on Americans across the country.

Key Findings:

● Nearly 8 out of 10 (77.8%) Americans think gun violence is a problem in America.

● Nearly half (44.9%) of Americans report being anxious (extremely/moderately) about gun violence in the U.S.

● 15.3% of Americans feel they are at higher risk of encountering an active shooter based on their religious affiliation.

o Among members of the Jewish religion, 49.1% believe they are more at risk. Those identifying as Muslims: 43.6%; Orthodox: 36.8%; and Roman Catholic: 15.9%.

● At the type of locations where high-profile mass shootings have taken place, Americans routinely check the exits and/or review their mental plan in case of an active shooter, as well as report higher levels of anxiety:

o In a movie theater (Aurora, Colo. – 2012): 62.6% check exits/review mental plan; 28.6% report some level of anxiety (extreme or moderate).

o In a grocery store (Boulder, Colo.; Collierville, Tenn. – 2021): 49.1% check exits/review mental plan; 28.4% report some level of anxiety (extreme or moderate).

o In a bar/night club (Orlando, Fla. – 2016): 29.7% report some level of anxiety (extreme or moderate).

● Nearly one third (29%) have been in a location where someone unexpectedly opened fire.

o Of those who have been in a location where someone unexpectedly opened fire, 18% were in a bar/night club.

“The United States is awash in guns and gun violence, but far from being numb to the violence, the survey results indicate that the American public is filled with more anxiety than ever, and that anxiety is slowly eroding any sense of trust that we can go about our daily lives safe from harm,” says Peter George, CEO of Evolv Technology. “We believe our research demonstrates that the most effective way to alleviate this nationwide anxiety is to democratize access to security for all public spaces, so that the public can feel confident when they gather and venues can take appropriate measures to meet their duty to keep their visitors safe.”

Regional Differences

While the findings reveal that Americans everywhere feel an impact from shootings and terrorist incidences, there are some notable disparities in the level of anxiety and perception of gun violence based on where they live.  

● Americans who live in the South (75.3%) are more worried about shooting and terrorist attacks than other regions of the country.

o Northeast: 72%

o West: 68.2%

o Midwest: 66.5%

● 82% of those who live in the Northeast think gun violence is a problem in the U.S. vs. 71% of those who live in the West.

o Likewise, 81.2% of those who live in urban areas think it’s a problem vs. 73% of those in rural areas.

● Nearly 4 out of 10 (37.5%) Americans believe they are less at risk of encountering an active shooter based on where they live. 

o Nearly half of those who live in a rural area (47.9%) feel they’re at less risk of an active shooter vs. 28% of those who live in an urban area.

● When asked who Americans believe is most responsible to keep them safe, the answers differ based on where they live.

o More Americans in the Northeast (30.5%) believe the local police are responsible for safety than IN the rest of the country (West: 26%; South: 24.5%; and Midwest: 24.4%).

o On the contrary, fewer Americans in the Northeast (33%) believe they are responsible for their own safety (Midwest: 39.6%; South: 41%; and West: 42%).

All Places Are Not Created Equal

According to the report, it’s clear that Americans are concerned about the risk of shootings in everyday locations, but for many, some carry more—and elicit higher levels of anxiety—than others.

● More than 3 out of 10 (31.3%) Americans list “large gatherings” as the top answer when asked where they have increased anxiety as a result of gun violence and/or terrorist activity.

o   Bar/night club: 28.8%  

o   Movie theater: 28.5%

o   Mall: 26.4%

o   School: 16.4%

o   Places of worship: 12.6%

● When attending large events, Americans are most concerned with:

o   COVID-19: 46.2%

o   Large crowds: 37.2%

o   Active shooter/shooting: 30.9%

o   Long lines: 28.6%

o   Terrorist attack: 20.6%

What Americans Will Do for Safety

The report says pervasive feeling of anxiety and worry carries over into what Americans are willing to do in order to reduce the threat of a terrorist attack or mass shooting. When asked whether they would be willing to go through extra steps to reduce those threats at everyday locations, such as the grocery store, workplace, or movie theater, they answered:

● Go through weapons detection screening: 56.7% 

● Have bags checked: 46.4%

● Check guns at the door: 43.6%

● Be patted down by a security professional: 37.4% 

● Only 21.5% would not be willing to go through these extra steps.

“What the data overwhelmingly reveal is that a mass shooting or terrorist incident has rippling effects across the U.S. population; it doesn’t just affect the people that were there,” says Joel Dvoskin, PhD, ABFP, clinical and forensic psychologist. “We have an epidemic of national trauma from the violent events that have already taken place, and don’t appear to be stopping, which I predict will only add to the trauma quantified by these findings.

“And most troubling, we now have a population that is demonstrating significantly increased rates of rage and instability as a result of lockdowns and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” adds Dvoskin. “We could be seeing an increased reason for Americans to be anxious, which explains their willingness to take extra steps to reduce threats.”

The full report is available here.