Youth gun violence has become an epidemic. Many experts agree gun policy needs to be viewed from a public health perspective. Below are articles outlining the most recent data on youth gun violence.
Characteristics of School-Associated Youth Homicides — United States, 1994–2018
This report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) series finds that 70.4% of all school-associated youth homicides between 1994 and 2016 were committed with a firearm. The report includes analysis of 431 single and multiple-victim school-associated homicides among youth aged 5-18 years old based on coding and analysis of interviews, police reports, and media articles between 1994-2018.
According to the report, the majority of victims in single-victim cases were African American males between the ages of 15 and 18, while the majority of single-victim perpetrators were African American and Hispanic males between the ages of 15 and 18. Urban, public high schools had the highest frequency of single-victim, school-associated youth homicides. Gang retaliation and interpersonal disputes were the most frequent motivations. In comparison, victims of multiple-victim youth homicides were more equally represented between males and females. Noticeably, more multiple-victim homicides happened in the 5-14 age group than in single-victim incidents. The majority of victims in multiple-victim homicides were white youth; the perpetrators were primarily white males between the ages of 15 and 18. Retaliation was the most common motivation, and perpetrators were typically schoolmates or strangers.
The report concludes with the implication that racial/ethnic minority school youth are at a higher risk for being homicide victims than white youth,. and that school homicides happen with greater frequency in urban areas. This similarity in characteristics of school-associated and non-school-associated youth homicides indicate a need for broader, community-wide prevention initiatives that go beyond the school setting.
Firearm Homicides and Suicides in Major Metropolitan Areas – United States, 2012-2013 and 2015-2016
Firearm-related homicide and suicide rates are on the rise according to this report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) series. Analyzing recent data from the 50 most populated metropolitan areas of the US, the report finds that 3224 youth between the ages of 10 and 19 were killed in a firearm-related homicide and 2118 died in a firearm-related suicide in 2015-2016, with 87% of all youth homicides and 42% of all youth suicides involving a gun.
Contrary to a previous trend, firearm-related homicide and suicide rates are now increasing. The youth firearm-related homicide is up from a combined rate of 4.3 in the metropolitan areas measured in 2012-2013 to 4.7 in 2015-2016. The youth firearm-related suicide rate is up from 1.5 to 1.9. The authors say it is too soon to say if this is a short-term fluctuation or the beginning of a longer trend.
The report concludes by stressing the importance of ongoing tracking of gun violence rates as a way of supporting prevention efforts. For instance, safe gun storage is key to limiting children’s access to guns. Research has also shown that initiatives for housing and preventive policies in schools have reduced youth suicide rates. Further, rebuilding and improving the physical and social environments of urban areas has been shown to significantly reduce firearm-related homicides.
Household Gun Ownership and Youth Suicide Rates at the State Level, 2005−2015
In this article from Michael Siegel and colleagues in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the authors find empirical evidence that household gun ownership is a significant factor contributing to youth suicide rates. According to the data analyzed in the study, 55% of the variation in youth suicide rates from state to state is explained by the variation in household gun ownership. The authors find that in states with the highest youth suicide rates, 52.5% of households had firearms; while in states with the lowest youth suicide rates, just 20% of households had firearms.
Suicide is the most common type of firearm-related death in the US, and an average of 3 children commit suicide daily. Previous research has reported a positive relationship between household gun ownership and suicide rates at the state level, but until now, none have examined youth suicide rates in relation to household gun ownership by controlling for state differences.
Drawing on household gun ownership data from a national representative sample of over 300,000 adults, the authors compare household gun ownership at the state level with data on youth suicide rates and self-reported youth suicide attempts at the state level. The study controlled for the known risks and socioeconomic factors that have been shown to affect youth suicide rates. In other words, the study presents convincing evidence that household gun ownership is an important factor contributing to youth suicides.