Children, Youth, and Gun Violence: Analysis

The Future of Children, Summer-Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Children, Youth, and Gun Violence: Analysis


Each year, more than 20,000 children and youth under age 20 are killed or injured by firearms in the United States. The lethality of guns, as well as their easy accessibility to young people, are key reasons why firearms are the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 19. Only motor vehicle accidents claim more young lives.

A majority of youth gun deaths are homicides. Suicides account for about one-third of all youth gun deaths, and unintentional shootings for about 7% of those deaths. Older teens, males, African American and Hispanic youth, and young people residing in urban areas are at particularly high risk for gun homicide; white adolescents, males, and youth living in rural areas are at highest risk for gun suicide.

Recent research estimates the economic costs of gun violence against children and youth at $15 billion per year. Studies suggest that children exposed to gun violence at home, at school, in the community, or through the media can experience negative psychological effects including posttraumatic stress, poor school performance, increased delinquency, risky sexual behaviors, substance abuse, and desensitization to violence. All of these effects can make children and youth more prone to violence themselves.

To reduce youth gun violence, four strategies are key:

* Reducing children's unsupervised exposure to guns. Research indicates that educational efforts aimed at persuading children and youth to stay away from guns or behave responsibly around them are of limited effectiveness. Therefore, parents must protect children from unsupervised exposure to guns through careful parental monitoring and, if they choose to keep guns in the home, by storing guns locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition.

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