"Under federal law, individuals younger than 18 years are prohibited from owning handguns and in most states from carrying concealed weapons. Nonetheless, data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and other studies indicate high levels of self-reported gun carrying among American youth," the article states.
Beth E. Molnar, Sc.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from 1,842 children between the ages 9 and 19 living in 218 Chicago neighborhoods, and identified whether neighborhood characteristics have an effect upon the tendency of a youth to carry a concealed firearm, beyond neighborhood economic differences and individual and family risk factors for carrying. Data for the study came from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods and were collected between 1995 and 2000.
"In this study 4.9 percent of males and 1.1 percent of females….reported having carried a concealed firearm," at some point during their lifetime, authors found. "Restricting the current analysis to youth aged 14 to 18 years, the prevalence of having carried a gun was 9.3 percent among males and 1.8 percent among females."
Researchers also found that children and adolescents are more likely to carry a concealed firearm if they live in a Chicago neighborhood that has certain identifiable characteristics that may foster a fear of being victimized.
"We found that youth in safer and less disordered neighborhoods were less likely than youth in unsafe and more disordered neighborhoods to carry concealed firearms," the authors write.
In conclusion the authors write, "Decreasing the degree to which a community is burdened by threatening or hostile behavior by adults, reclaiming the number of public spaces available for children to play in and supporting adults who are willing to intervene in the lives of their community's children may positively alter the social dynamics that currently contribute to concealed firearm carrying by youth" (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158:657-664. Available post-embargo at archpediatrics.com)
Editor's Note: This study was supported by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta) to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Funding for the PHDCN was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (Chicago, Ill.), the National Institute of Mental Health (Bethesda, Md.), and the National Institute of Justice (Washington, D.C.).
EDITORIAL: YOUTH'S INVOLVEMENT WITH GUNS
In an accompanying editorial, Philip J. Cook, Ph.D., of Duke University, Durham, N.C., writes, "Adolescents in cities where gun ownership is prevalent were much more likely to carry one than adolescents with similar personal and household characteristics in cities where gun ownership is relatively rare. (On the other hand, there was no statistical relationship between gun-ownership prevalence and the likelihood of carrying another type of weapon.) The most plausible reason for this pattern of gun involvement is that youths found it easier to acquire a gun – to buy, borrow, or steal one – where guns are more common. Gun ownership matters."
Dr. Cook concludes: "The evidence suggests that reducing gun prevalence would help constrain youths' urge to seek self-protection in this fashion, as would reducing the levels of neighborhood violence and disorder that provide much of the underlying motivation."
He writes that "These results [by Molnar et al] provide some guidance for policymakers seeking to develop interventions that will reduce gun involvement by youths."
(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158:705. Available post-embargo at archpediatrics.com)
For more information, contact JAMA/Archives Media Relations at 312/464-JAMA (5262) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
To contact Beth E. Molnar, Sc.D., call Kevin Myron at 617-432-3952.
To contact editorialist Philip J. Cook, Ph.D., call Karen Kemp at 919-613-7394.
Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine