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Column One: Students

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A child's comfort with aggression is the most important factor in predicting his or her tendency to want a gun, a survey of students by the Gun Safety Institute has found.

Three other factors also stood out as important indicators of gun "proneness'': interest in power/safety, preference for excitement, and aggressive response to shame, according to the questionnaire administered to 450 5th, 7th and 9th graders in the Cleveland public schools by the gun-safety lobbying group.

The survey, developed by the Child Guidance Center of Cleveland, was given in March and designed to assess students' attitudes and expectations about handguns.

The questionnaire consisted of 79 statements to which the students could agree, disagree, or say they were not sure.

On average, boys scored 14 points higher on the 126-point scale of gun-proneness than girls, the study found.

Responding to personal questions at the end of the survey, 86 percent of the students knew someone who had a gun, 47 percent knew there was a gun in their house, 50 percent had held a gun, and 40 percent had seen someone shot.

The surveyed students were 65 percent African-American, 20 percent white, 7 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent other ethnicity.

A separate survey found that most teenagers say that people join gangs because of a "need to belong.''

But a fourth of the students surveyed said that joining a gang reflected a "need for protection,'' and another fourth said gangs enabled students to act out their hostility.

The survey, conducted last month, polled 8,472 high-school students who watch Channel One, the controversial Whittle Communications public-affairs program.

Guns and violence are also on the agenda of an upcoming meeting of high-school student leaders.

At the annual conference of the National Association of Student Councils, to be held late this month in Aurora, Colo., students will debate whether education or security is the best way to curb the number of guns on high-school campuses.

The nearly 1,700 students expected to participate will also debate such issues as whether schools and communities should work to encourage two-parent families and whether the voting age should be raised to 21.

The students are also scheduled to take part in a survey that will examine their opinions on national testing and school choice, among other topics.--M.L. & R.R.

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