Academic journal article The Future of Children

Public Perspectives

Academic journal article The Future of Children

Public Perspectives

Article excerpt

EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION

The final two articles in this journal issue, called "Public Perspectives," focus on aspects of the public debate surrounding youth access to guns. Rarely does a children's issue generate as much controversy as this one does. Few Americans are neutral when it comes to young people and gun violence--and their opinions are strongly held. Indeed, the United States often seems split into two intractable camps on the issue.

Although both of these camps condemn youth gun violence--whether in the form of homicide, suicide, or unintentional shootings--they differ dramatically in their approaches to the problem. One camp feels that most children and youth cannot be trusted around guns without strict supervision and that restrictions on youth access to guns are justified as a way to prevent youth gun violence, even if these restrictions make guns more difficult for adults to obtain and use. The other camp believes that after a certain age, youth can be trained to use guns responsibly; that the broader culture, not the availability of guns, is the major cause of youth gun violence; and that restrictions on gun purchases threaten what they view as constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. The two camps are polarized and hostile. As a result, many public policies with the potential to reduce youth gun violence remain stalled in Congress, in state legislatures, and at the local level.

The articles in this section of the journal shed some light on the deeply held beliefs of Americans on both sides of the debate about youth gun violence. The first article, by Smith, reviews trends in public opinion regarding gun control, particularly policies that restrict youth access to guns. …

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