Gun control advocates have focused much of their attention on gun violence among children and adolescents. They note that gunshot wounds are more likely to kill teenage males than all natural causes combined. From 1983 to 1995, the proportion of gun homicides in which juveniles used guns rose from 55 percent to 80 percent. These data are reflected in a 1993 Louis Harris poll, in which 35 percent of children from 6 to 12 years old said they feared for their lives because of gun violence. Although juvenile arrests for murder declined 14 percent during the period 1994-95, the levels of other types of violence remained high.
Some people have advocated the introduction of greater safety measures to curb youth injury and death due to firearms. For instance, in 1997 Democratic President Bill Clinton called for mandatory safety devices on guns to prevent accidents involving children. Although some argue for more stringent gun legislation, others contend that such legislation would have little effect on the overall level of gun possession and usage by youth. Gun researcher Gary Kleck has argued against mandating certain gun safety measures, claiming that they miss the true problem with gun violence. He notes that just 18 percent of accidental deaths from gun shots involved children 12 years of age or younger. He also notes that few young children have the strength to pull the trigger on the average handgun. Because children are seldom involved in gun accidents, Kleck argues that various safety devices cannot have a significant effect on the overall fatal gun accident ( FGA) rate among young children.
Existing laws forbid juvenile purchases of handguns from retail stores or pawnshops; federal law restricts crossing state lines to purchase guns; theft of guns is illegal; transfer of stolen property is against the law; firing a gun inside the city limits is widely banned; and bearing a weapon on school property has been made illegal. Those who oppose further gun control legislation conjecture that better enforcement of the law could result in improved compliance. Although Joseph Sheley and James Wright, in their 1995 study of youth and firearms, conceded that more severe criminal penalties could have some positive effect in reducing gun violence, they concluded that the extent of the problem and the lack of resources have kept existing laws from having their intended effect. Controlling the supply of ammunition has also been suggested as a means of limiting gun violence. However, noting the experience with the illegal drug trade, some argue that a black market for ammunition would spring up quickly to meet the demand.
Sheley and Wright further argued that stiff new penalties would place the worst youth offenders in prison, but would ultimately prove futile because new offenders would soon replace those who have been taken off