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Reducing youth violence through positive transformation

We found these stats on youth gun violence from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) very interesting, and wanted to share them. We especially liked evidence of an approach with growing research support that deters continued offending by providing varied responses to violent offenders including direct and repeated communication that stresses crime deterrence and coordination with social services and community resources, much like the services that PIT offers.

Gun violence poses a serious threat to America’s children and youth. Existing data clearly point to the need for improved strategies for keeping guns out of the hands of children and youth and those who would harm them. Gun violence in schools is extremely rare, as are violent crimes committed by people with mental illness.

However, the majority of youth murdered are killed with a firearm and nearly half of youth suicide deaths involve the use of a gun. Efforts to end youth gun violence must focus on accessibility and prevention. Additionally, federal safety and health agencies must be empowered to conduct comprehensive research into the causes of and solutions to this unacceptable source of harm to our children, families, and communities.

Firearm Deaths in the United States (CDC, 2012):

  • In 2010, there were 2,711 infant, child, and teen firearm deaths. On average there were seven such fatalities daily and 52 weekly.
  • Between 1981 and 2010, 112,375 infants, children, and teens were killed by firearms. This is 25,000 more deaths than the number of soldiers killed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, combined (Children’s Defense Fund, 2013a).
  • Of the 1,982 youth (age 10-19) murdered in 2010, 84% were killed by a firearm.
  • Of the 1,659 teens (age 15-19) who committed suicide in 2010, 40% were by firearm.
  • Of the 1,323 males (age 15-19) who committed suicide in 2010, 45% were by firearm.
  • Of the 336 females (age 15-19) who committed suicide in 2010, 20% were by firearm.
  • In 2010, across all age groups (and including adults), there were 31,672 individuals killed by firearms (with 61% of these deaths being suicide and 35% homicide).

Homicide and Suicide at School:

  • Less than 1% of student homicides and suicides take place at school, on the way to or from school, or at a school sponsored event (Robers, Zhang, & Truman, 2012).
  • During the 2009/2010 school year the odds of a student (age 5-18) being the victim of a school-associated homicide was one in 2.5 million. In comparison, the odds of a 5 to 19 year old being killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2010 were 1 in 16,000. (CDC, 2012).
  • Most school-associated student homicides involve a firearm and a single victim and offender (Modzeleski et al., 2008).
  • In 80% of school-associated firearm-related homicides and suicides, the weapons used were obtained from the home or from a friend or relative (Reza et al., 2003).

Guns and Other Weapons at Home and in School (CDC, 2012; Eaton et al., 2011; Okoro et al.,2005):

  • In 2011, 5% of high school students carried a gun on school property, and 7% were threatened or injured by a weapon (e.g., gun, knife, or club) on school property.
  • Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Wyoming has the highest percentage of homes with guns (63%), the highest suicide rate (23 per 100,000), and the highest percentage of students carrying a gun to school (11%). Conversely,
  • Massachusetts ranks 48th (out of 51) in terms of percentage of homes with firearms (13%), has one the lowest suicide rates (9 per 100,000), and the lowest reported percentage of students who acknowledged bringing a gun to school (2.5%).
  • Among selected larger urban school districts Washington, DC, had the highest percentage of students carrying a gun to school (7.5%), and New York City had the lowest (2.3%).
  • Overall, the prevalence of having carried a weapon on school property decreased during 1991–1999 (26%–17%) and did not change significantly during 1999–2011.

Policy Issues Related to Curbing Gun Violence

  • According to the Children’s Defense Fund (2013b), loopholes in firearm safety laws have reduced their effectiveness. For example, the Brady Law, which required federal background checks for guns purchased from licensed retailers, did not require such checks for guns bought through private sales (and it is currently
    estimated that 40% of guns are bought from private sellers).
  • States that conducted background checks for restraining orders and fugitive status had fewer homicide and suicide deaths. Firearm suicide deaths were lower for states with background checks for mental illness, fugitive status, and misdemeanors (Sen & Panjamapirom, 2012).
  • Although development and evaluation is necessary, some have proposed that altering the design of firearms themselves will reduce accidental and intentional injury and/or death by firearm (Teret & Cluross, 2002).
  • Most people with serious mental illness do not commit violent crimes, and the very few who do are unlikely to use a gun (Applebaum & Swanson, 2010).
  • Among the general public, there is fear and stigma of people with mental illness when, in fact, people with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims than perpetrators of violent crime (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, n.d).

Effectiveness of Initiatives to Curb Gun Violence:

  • Problem-oriented police initiatives (e.g., a focus on problem identification, analysis, response, and intervention) to reduce gun violence vs. “zero tolerance” policing initiatives (e.g., indiscriminant cracking down on all crimes) are associated with a statistically significant decrease in gun homicide, gun related
    assault, and youth homicide. These initiatives address the culture and community of gun violence in addition to providing sanctions (Braga et al., 2008; Braga & Weisburd, 2012; Kennedy et al., 1996).
  • “Pulling levers” is an approach with growing research support that deters continued offending by providing varied responses to violent offenders including direct and repeated communication that stresses crime deterrence and coordination with social services and community resources (Braga et al., 2008; Braga & Weisburd, 2012).
  • Among those with a felony arrest, denial of gun purchase requests is associated with lower rates of gun offenses and violent crimes, compared to those who are allowed to buy a gun (White, Wintenute, & Rivera, 1999).

Click here to download the complete Youth Gun Violence Fact Sheet from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

Learn more about PIT’s Violence Intervention & Prevention (VIP) Program, which helps youth and young adults reduce and prevent gun violence.

Post Author: Stan Ross

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