Large support for armed guards but not arming teachers in K-12 schools in New Jersey

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Half of New Jersey residents fear they or someone they know will become a victim of gun violence, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll conducted in collaboration with the New Jersey Center on Gun Violence Research at Rutgers University.

Twenty-three percent are very worried and another 28 percent are somewhat worried about this happening; 22 percent, on the other hand, are not too worried, and 27 percent are not worried at all. Seventeen percent say they or someone they know has already experienced gun violence in the past 12 months.

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Despite these fears, two-thirds of New Jerseyans believe gun violence is actually either a small problem (22 percent) or not a problem at all (44 percent) in their local community. A third feel gun violence is a big problem (20 percent) or somewhat of a problem (12 percent).

“While New Jerseyans as a whole may not view gun violence as a major problem, it is a very real and significant concern for certain groups in the state,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University. “Experience with and concerns about gun violence are more prevalent among black residents, lower income residents, less educated residents, and those who live in urban areas.”

New Jerseyans are split on whether having a gun in the house eases concerns about safety: 39 percent say a gun in the house makes it safer, while 40 percent say it makes it more dangerous. Another 16 percent say it depends, and 5 percent are unsure. Fourteen percent of residents report having some sort of firearm in or around their home.

Research tells us that people with guns in the home are at a greater risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide regardless of storage practices, the number of guns or type of guns kept in the home,” said Michael Ostermann, associate professor at Rutgers University’s School of Criminal Justice and co-director of the Center on Gun Violence Research at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Police records that communicate defensive gun uses, on the other hand, are often not reported – making estimates of the impact of self-protective gun use elusive."

"Existing studies from the Harvard School of Public Health estimate the probability of gun-owning households using a gun against a home intruder to be rare events, with one defensive gun use per year against an intruder for every 3,500 homes that keep guns,” Ostermann added.

When it comes to gun violence in schools, two-thirds of parents (65 percent) say they have talked to their children about the issue. More than six in ten of all residents strongly (41 percent) or somewhat (22 percent) support putting armed guards in K-12 schools; just a third oppose it.

Following the Parkland shootings, East Brunswick became the first distirct in the state to emply armed security officers in every school building.

The Sandy Hook Promise "Start with Hello" program encourages students to make a difference with their peers in a simple, fun, and impactful way by encouraging them to take small but powerful actions to promote connectedness and inclusion, and to identify and help others who are showing signs of social isolation.

The Extreme Risk Protective Order Act of 2018 authorizes gun violence restraining orders and firearm seizure warrants and supplementing Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes. According to the legislation, the gun violence restraining order means a court order prohibiting a person from purchasing, owning, possessing, or controlling a firearm for a period of up to one year. The firearm seizure warrant means a court order regarding a person who is subject to a gun violence restraining order and who is known to own or possess one or more firearms that directs a law enforcement officer to seize any firearms in the possession of that person and to bring the unloaded firearm before the judge.     

But residents say just the opposite about allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns on school grounds: over two-thirds strongly (54 percent) or somewhat (14 percent) oppose doing this, while under three in ten support it (17 percent strongly, 12 percent somewhat).

Results are from a statewide poll of 1,008 adults contacted by live callers on landlines and cell phones from March 29 through April 9, 2019. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish. Find the full press release, including the poll questions and tables at or click here.