Guns and Youth
Guns and Youth
In the 1980s and 1990s young people in the United States began to resolve disputes more and more often with guns. Youth gangs and school shootings dominated news headlines. By the early 2000s school security had become a major issue in American culture as weapons in schools were viewed as commonplace, and parents wondered if any school was safe.
In Homicide Trends in the United States (July 11, 2007, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/htius.pdf), James Alan Fox and Marianne W. Zawitz of the Bureau of Justice Statistics discuss various trends in homicides that have occurred in the United States between 1976 and 2005. Concerning the homicide trends from 1976 to 2005 by age, gender, and race of the perpetrator per one hundred thousand population (see Figure 7.1), they note that:
- Young adults aged eighteen to twenty-four had the highest rate of homicide offenders throughout the period.
- Homicide offending rates for adults aged twenty-five and over generally declined for all racial and gender groups.
- Homicide offending rates for African-American and white males under age twenty-five increased dramatically beginning in the mid- to late 1980s through about 1994 and then decreased dramatically through about 2000.
Fox and Zawitz also examine homicide and gun-related homicide trends according to the age of the perpetrator. In the 1980s a decline began in the number of adults aged twenty-five and over who were committing murder with guns, whereas the number of younger people committing murder with guns showed a dramatic rise beginning in the mid-1980s that continued into the mid-1990s. (See Figure 7.2.)
The number of juveniles who committed murder with guns began a dramatic rise in 1984 and peaked in 1994. (See Figure 7.3.) According to Howard N. Snyder and Melissa Sickmund of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, in Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report (March 2006, http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/nr2006/downloads/NR2006.pdf), 90% of the overall increase occurred with males killing nonfamily members with guns, usually handguns. Snyder and Sick-mund state, “This type of murder increased 400% between 1984 and 1994. A closer look at these crimes reveals that the increase was somewhat greater for murders of acquaintances than strangers and somewhat greater for juveniles acting with other offenders than for a juvenile offender acting alone. Nearly three-quarters of the increase was the result of crimes committed by black and other minority males—and in two-thirds of these murders, the victims were minority males.” The number of juveniles who committed murder declined from 1994 to 2002 as dramatically as it had risen.
Possible explanations for the surge of youth violence are cited by Mark H. Moore and Michael Tonry in Youth Violence (1998):
- A rise in the size and share of the youth population
- The “increased adversity of the conditions under which the children were raised”
- A culture that celebrates violence in sports and encourages violence in disciplining people and resolving disputes
- The introduction of crack cocaine into inner-city America
- An increase in the supply of guns to youth
The phenomenon of violent youth crime brought on zero-tolerance policies for youthful misbehavior. The justice
system moved toward trying adolescents in adult courts and punishing them in adult prisons. The group Building Blocks for Youth, an alliance of children’s advocates, researchers, law enforcement professionals, and community organizers, indicates in Youth Crime/Adult Time: Is Justice Served? (October 26, 2000, http://www.buildingblocksforyouth.org/ycat) that in the 1990s nearly every state changed its laws to make it easier to prosecute juveniles as adults. Charles Lane reports in “5–4 Supreme Court Abolishes Juvenile Executions” (Washington Post, March 2, 2005) that in 2005 twenty states had laws permitting the execution of juvenile offenders. However, in Roper v. Simmons (543 U.S. 551 ), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to put to death those who were under the age of eighteen at the time they committed their crimes, effectively ending juvenile executions in all states.
Howard N. Snyder of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention confirms in Juvenile Arrests 2002 (September 2004, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/204608.pdf) the significant decline in all juvenile crime, particularly firearm offenses. Between 1995 and 2004 there was a drop of 30% in juvenile weapons offenses. (See Table 7.1.)
Public policy officials and social scientists investigated the causes of this decrease in hopes of implementing policies that would ensure that the trend continued. In Reflections on the Crime Decline: Lessons for the Future? (August 2002, http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/410546_CrimeDecline.pdf), Jeremy Travis and Michelle Waul of the Urban Institute present possible explanations for this decline:
- New police strategies
- The buildup of prisons
- The strong economy of the late 1990s
- New gun control policies and more effective enforcement of laws
- Demographic shifts, especially in the number of young people
- Stabilization of crack markets
- Community crime-fighting efforts
Steven D. Levitt suggests in “Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors That Explain the Decline and Six That Do Not” (Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 18, no. 1, winter 2004) that four factors explain much of the decline. First, Levitt indicates that increased police presence is a first line of defense against crime, and that in the 1990s the number of police officers in the United States increased about 14%. Second, he notes that imprisonment of criminals increased in the 1990s, removing offenders from the streets and deterring others from committing crimes. Third, he suggests that as the crack epidemic receded, it had the effect of lowering the violent crime rate. Fourth, Levitt observes that a growing body of evidence shows that “unwanted” children are at a greater risk for committing crimes than “wanted” children. Therefore, he hypothesizes that the legalization of abortion with the 1973 Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113 ) decision led to a reduction in the number of unwanted births and, therefore, to a reduction in the number of children who would have been at a greater risk for criminal activity two decades later.
Another insight into the youth violent crime decline came from the U.S. surgeon general, in Youth Violence :
|TABLE 7.1 Juvenile arrests, 2004 and percent change, 1995-2004|
|Most serious offense||2004 estimated number of juvenile arrests||Percent of total juvenile arrests||Percent change|
|Female||Under age 15||1995-2004||2000-2004||2003-2004|
|Note: Detail may not add to totals because of rounding.|
|SOURCE: Howard N. Snyder, ‘The 2.2 Million Arrests of Juveniles in 2004 Was 22% Fewer Than the Number of Arrests in 1995,’ in Juvenile Arrests 2004, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, December 2006, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdf-files1/ojjdp/214563.pdf (accessed April 24, 2008)|
|Violent crime index||91,100||19||32||231||25||21|
|Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter||1,110||9||12||-63||-8||0|
|Property crime index||452,300||34||36||240||215||23|
|Motor vehicle theft||39,300||17||25||-53||-21||-9|
|Forgery and counterfeiting||4,900||34||15||-47||-31||5|
|Stolen property (buying, receiving, possessing)||23,300||17||27||-49||-18||-4|
|Weapons (carrying, possessing, etc.)||40,500||11||35||-30||11||6|
|Prostitution and commercialized vice||1,800||72||12||36||44||7|
|Sex offense (except forcible rape and prostitution)||18,000||9||51||12||-3||0|
|Drug abuse violations||193,900||17||17||-4||-6||-2|
|Offenses against the family and children||5,800||38||35||-24||-30||-10|
|Driving under the influence||19,900||21||2||20||-10||-3|
|Liquor law violations||130,200||35||10||-4||-22||-5|
|All other offenses (except traffic)||379,000||28||28||-13||-11||-2|
|Suspicion (not included in totals)||600||25||28||-72||-50||18|
|Curfew and loitering||137,400||31||29||-15||-12||-8|
A Report of the Surgeon General (2001, http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/youthviolence/). The surgeon general credits the designation of youth violence as a public health concern—not just a criminal justice concern—as an important step in learning how to treat and prevent violence.
Both the surgeon general and Travis and Waul note that the nation has not seen the end of youth violence. According to Travis and Waul, there are troubling signs in the big cities (where violent crime is concentrated) that the crime decline may be reversing. Table 7.1 shows that these troubling signs have a basis in reality. Even though the percent change of juvenile weapons offenses decreased dramatically after 1994, juvenile weapons offenses increased 11% from 2000 to 2004 and 6% from 2003 to 2004.
Why is this increase occurring? Kevin Johnson reports in “Police Tie Jump in Crime to Juveniles” (USA Today, July 13, 2006) that officials from a variety of cities suggest that funding for police and community programs has shifted to “the war on terror” since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. Thus, programs and police that worked to help thwart juvenile violent crime are no longer in place. In addition, gang leaders who were imprisoned during the early 1990s are being released, reclaiming turf and telling young recruits to carry weapons for them. This approach helps protect older gang members from weapons violations and a return to prison, but disputes among young gun-carrying gang members often result in firearm injuries and deaths.
RACE AND GENDER. Fox and Zawitz indicate that young males, especially young African-American males, are involved in homicides as offenders out of proportion to their share in the population, which has remained slightly over 1% since 1976. (See Figure 7.4.) In addition, the proportion of homicide offenders in the African-American population of youth aged fourteen to twenty-four increased
dramatically from 1984 through 1993. African-American males aged fourteen to twenty-four accounted for 18.9% of all homicide offenders in 1976, compared to 34.6% of the total in 1993. The proportion of young black males who were homicide offenders declined after 1993, reaching a low of 25.6% in 2002 before increasing to 27.8% in 2005.
According to Fox and Zawitz, the percentage of the population represented by white males aged eighteen to twenty-four declinedfrom 8.9%in1976 to6.3%in 2005. (See Figure 7.4.) However, the proportion of homicide offenders of that group has remained somewhat stable. White males aged fourteen to twenty-four represented16.2% of homicide offenders in 1976, compared to 16.5% in 2005. (See Figure 7.4.) However, the proportion of homicide offenders of that group has remained somewhat stable. White males aged fourteen to twenty-four represented 16.2% of homicide offenders in 1976, compared to 16.5% in 2005.
Young people are often the targets of youth violent crimes. In “Age Fourteen Starts a Child’s Increased Risk of Major Knife or Gun Injury in Washington, DC” (Journal of the National Medical Association, vol. 96, no. 2, 2004), Howard Freed et al. analyze trauma registry data at an inner-city trauma center over a period of eight years. The researchers find that the risk of a youth becoming a victim of a major gunshot wound or stabbing rose dramatically at age fourteen and that this risk continued to rise sharply through age eighteen.
Fox and Zawitz note that between 1976 and 2005 more than three-quarters of homicide victims aged sixteen to twenty-one were killed by guns, with seventeen to nineteen years old being the peak age for homicide by firearm. (See Figure 7.5.) For purposes of comparison, the researchers note that less than half of homicide victims aged sixty-three and older or aged eleven and younger were killed by guns during the same period.
Not only are young children less frequently victims of gun violence than older children but also their numbers of deaths have declined since 1999. The use of firearms
James Alan Fox and Marianne W. Zawitz, “Percent of Homicides Involving Guns by Age of Victim, 1976-2005,” in Homicide Trends in the United States, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 11, 2007, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/weapons.htm#gunpctage (accessed April 24, 2008)
|TABLE 7.2 Number and rate of homicide firearm deaths of children 12 and under, 1999-2005|
|Year||Number of deaths||Population||Crude rate|
|SOURCE: Adapted from ‘1999-2005, United States Homicide Firearm Deaths and Rates per 100,000 All Races, Both Sexes, Ages 0 to 12,’ in Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2008, http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars/ (data query run April 25, 2008)|
against murder victims aged twelve and under decreased from 160 in 1999 to 126 in 2005. (See Table 7.2.) The rate of homicide firearm deaths in young children declined as well, from 0.31 deaths per 100,000 population in 1999 to 0.24 deaths in 2005.
Figure 7.6 shows homicide victimization trends from 1976 to 2005 by age, gender, and race of the victim per one hundred thousand population. Of note from 1976 to 2005:
- Homicide victimization rates for adults aged twenty-five and over generally declined for all racial and gender groups.
- Young adults aged eighteen to twenty-four had the highest rate of homicide victimization across gender and race.
- Homicide victimization rates for African-American males under age twenty-five increased dramatically from 1984 through 1993 and then decreased dramatically through 2000. Similar patterns were seen for white males and African-American females, but the increase and subsequent decrease was not as dramatic as with African-American males.
RACE AND GENDER. According to Fox and Zawitz, young males, especially young African-American males, are involved in homicides as victims out of proportion to their share in the population, which has remained slightly over 1% since 1976. (See Figure 7.4.) In addition, the proportion of homicide victims in the African-American population of youth aged fourteen to twenty-four increased dramatically from 1984 through 1994. African-American males aged fourteen to twenty-four accounted for 9.2% of all homicide victims in 1976, compared to 17.5% in 1994. The proportion of young black males who were homicide victims declined after 1994, reaching a low of 14.8% in 2000 before increasing slightly to 15.5% in 2005.
The percentage of the population represented by white males fourteen to twenty-four years of age declined from 8.9% in 1976 to 6.3% in 2005. (See Figure 7.4.) However, the proportion of homicide victims of that group has risen slightly. White males aged fourteen to twenty-four represented 8.7% of homicide victims in 1976, compared to 10.4% in 2005. Thus, a gap has arisen in recent years between the percentage of young white males in the population (6.3% in 2005) and their percentage as homicide victims (10.4% in 2005).
In 1976 the homicide victimization rate per one hundred thousand population for African-American males aged eighteen to twenty-four was 89.8; by 1993 African-American males in the eighteen-to-twenty-four age group were homicide victims at a rate of 183.5 per 100,000. (See Figure 7.6.) The rate declined to 100.6 per 100,000 in 2000, and in 2005 it was slightly higher at 102.
The homicide victimization rates for white males in the eighteen-to-twenty-four age group has had its ups and downs from 1976 through 2005, but the 2005 rate of 12.2 per 100,000 is only slightly higher than the 1976 rate of 11.3. (See Figure 7.4.) Homicide victimization rates for both white and African-American women declined in all age groups from 1976 to 2005, although the rates vacillated (fluctuated) over the years.
Youth Gangs and Criminally Active Nongang Groups
Much of the violent activity among young people can be attributed to youth gangs, which tend to be concentrated in poor, inner-city neighborhoods. However, Anthony A. Braga notes in Gun Violence among Serious Young Offenders (March 29, 2004, http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/pop/e01042199.pdf) that gangs are not always the source of gun violence. In some cities criminally active nongang groups are major gun offenders.
Braga explains that gun violence and murders in gangs are usually related to rivalries among gangs; offenders often become victims and vice versa. Gun violence and murders in criminally active groups that are not gangs are usually related to “business interests,” such as drug dealing. Murders tied to these groups usually occur in or near “street” drug markets, and many of the victims are part of the drug organization or criminal network.
How Do Young Offenders Acquire Guns?
Daniel W. Webster et al. interviewed forty-five youths incarcerated in a juvenile justice facility to determine how they obtained guns. The interviewers reported their findings in “How Delinquent Youths Acquire Guns: Initial versus Most Recent Gun Acquisitions” (Journal of Urban Health, vol. 79, no. 1, March 2002). Of the forty-five youths, thirty had acquired at least one gun, and twenty-two had acquired multiple guns. Approximately 50% of their first guns were
given to them by friends or family, or they found discarded guns. Those who acquired more than one gun usually got them from acquaintances or drug addicts. If they bought new guns, the youths generally purchased them from gun traffickers (people who are in the business of selling guns illegally). Webster et al. conclude that a way to reduce the number of guns in the hands of young offenders is to stop high-volume gun traffickers and recover discarded guns from areas in which illicit drug sales take place.
In “Source of Firearms Used by Students in School-Associated Violent Deaths” (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 52, no. 9, March 7, 2003), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigates how students obtained firearms used in serious school-associated crimes such as homicide and suicide between 1992 and 1999. Most students obtained guns from home (37.5%), with the next likely source being a friend or relative (23.4%). Only 7% of guns used in school-related crimes were purchased, and 5.5% were stolen.
The Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative (http://www.atf.treas.gov/firearms/ycgii/), developed in 1996 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), is a voluntary project designed to reduce youth firearms violence. The initiative analyzes guns recovered from crimes and traces them to their original sources. According to the ATF, in Crime Gun Trace Reports (2000): National Report (July 2002, http://www.atf.gov/firearms/ycgii/2000/index.htm), in 2000 there was a total of 88,570 crime firearms trace reports from 46 participating cities with populations exceeding 250,000. About 8% of crime guns were recovered from juveniles younger than seventeen. About 33% of crime guns were recovered from young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four.
The ATF finds that many recovered firearms move rapidly from first retail sales at federally licensed gun dealers to the black market (a market where products are bought and sold illegally), which supplies juveniles with
guns. When crime guns are recovered within three years from the time of sale, they can be more easily traced to their illegal sources than older guns, which are more likely to have passed through many hands before entering the illegal market. According to the ATF, these “new” crime guns made up nearly one-third of all firearms recovered in 2000.
These data were the most recent national data available in 2008. Since 2003 the ATF has been prohibited by law from publishing firearms tracing statistics. (For more information on this restriction and efforts to change it, see Chapter 2.)
In “The Life Cycle of Crime Guns: A Description Based on Guns Recovered from Young People in California” (Annals of Emergency Medicine, vol. 43, no. 6, June 2004), Garen J. Wintemute et al. analyze data from ATF firearms tracing records to follow the life cycle of 2,121 crime guns recovered in California in 1999. The researchers make several interesting conclusions:
- Guns recovered from individuals younger than eighteen years old were most often purchased by people aged forty-five and older
- Small-caliber handguns made up 41% of handguns recovered from this group.
- For 17.3% of crime guns recovered from teenagers, the median time from sale to recovery was less than three years, which indicates deliberate gun trafficking.
- A minority of retailers and straw purchasers (people buying guns for another) are disproportionately linked to the sale or transfer of crime guns.
A growing source for juveniles to acquire firearms is the Internet. Seung-Hui Cho (1984–2007), who killed thirty-two students and faculty members and injured fifteen others at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in April 2007, bought one of his guns online, and Steven Kazmierczak (1980–2008), who killed five students and injured sixteen others at Northern Illinois University in February 2008, bought gun accessories online. However, long before these tragedies, Internet gun sales were known to be a problem. The Internet Gun Trafficking Act of 1999 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in an effort to ensure that people selling firearms on the Internet were licensed as firearm manufacturers, importers, or dealers and followed regulations regarding gun sales. This bill was not enacted. In 2002 the Electronic Commerce Crime Prevention and Protection Act was introduced in the House. Its purpose was to require firearms, ammunition, and explosives purchases to be made in person. This bill was also not enacted. Nonetheless, every Internet gun purchase requires that the sale go through a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder. Laws in various states also regulate gun sales, including Internet sales.
Since 1991 the CDC has been collecting information about risky behaviors among young people to determine how widespread the behaviors are and at what age the behaviors begin. The CDC surveys high school students nationwide to find out about drug and cigarette use, exercise and sexual habits, and weapons possession, among other things. Figure 7.7 shows the percentage of students by gender in grades nine through twelve who reported carrying a weapon anywhere and on school property according to Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted between 1993 and 2005. Weapon-carrying prevalence declined for both male and female high school students from 1993 to 2003, but increased slightly from 2003 to 2005 except for females on school property. Weapon-carrying behavior for females on school property decreased slightly from 2003 to 2005.
Table 7.3 shows the percentage of high school students by grade and urbanicity who reported carrying a weapon anywhere and on school property according to Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted between 1993 and 2005. In 1993 ninth graders (25.5%) had the highest prevalence of weapon-carrying anywhere, and even though this figure dropped by 2005, ninth graders still had the highest prevalence, at 19.9%. Twelfth graders had the lowest prevalence of weapon-carrying anywhere at 19.9% in 1993 and 16.9% in 2005. The situation was slightly different at school. In 1993 ninth graders (12.6%) had the highest prevalence of weapon-carrying on school grounds. By 2005 the rates for all grades had decreased by almost half, but tenth graders slightly surpassed the others at 6.9%. Twelfth graders had the second-highest prevalence at 6.7%, and ninth graders the third at 6.4%. Students in rural areas had a higher prevalence of weapon-carrying, both anywhere and on school grounds, than did students in urban or suburban areas.
According to the CDC, in “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2007” (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 57, no. SS-4, June 6, 2008), 5.2% of students in grades nine through twelve across the country carried a gun to school on at least one day in the month preceding their participation in the survey. (See Table 7.4.) Gun carrying was much more prevalent among boys (9%) than girls (1.2%) in the survey, and was higher among African-American males (11.2%) than among Hispanic males (10.4%) or white males (7.8%) during 2007. Hispanic girls (2.1%) were more likely than African-American girls (1.3%) or white girls (0.8%) to have carried a gun to school at least once during the previous month. Figure 7.8, which presents data from the 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, offers a more detailed breakdown by race and ethnicity but does not further separate results by sex. Pacific Islander students (15%) and those who reported more than one race (12%) were the most likely to have carried a gun to school in 2005, followed by Hispanics (8%) and Native Americans (7%).
|TABLE 7.3 Percentage of students in grades 9-12 who reported carrying a weapon at least 1 day in the past 30 days, by grade and urbanicity, selected years, 1993-2005|
|Student or school characteristic||Anywhere||On school property|
|Note: ‘On school property’ was not defined for survey respondents. Population sizes from the Digest of Education Statistics, 2005 and 2002 (NCES 2006-030 and 2003-060) for students in grades 9-12 are 13,093,000 students in 1993; 13,697,000 in 1995; 14,272,000 in 1997; 14,623,000 in 1999; 15,061,000 in 2001; 15,723,000 in 2003; and 16,286,000 (projected) in 2005.|
|SOURCE: Adapted from Rachel Dinkes, Emily Forrest Cataldi, and Wendy Lin-Kelly, ‘Table 14.1. Percentage of Students in Grades 9-12 Who Reported Carrying a Weapon at Least 1 Day during the Previous 30 Days, by Location and Selected Student and School Characteristics: Various Years, 1993-2005,’ in Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, and U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2007, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/crimeindicators2007/tables/table_14_1.asp (accessed April 24, 2008)|
The 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that the prevalence of gun carrying was highest in the sophomore year (5.5%). (See Table 7.4.) Freshmen were the next most likely to carry a gun (5.2%), followed by seniors (5%). Juniors (4.6%) were the least likely to carry a gun to school in 2007.
|TABLE 7.4 Percentage of students who carried a weapon and who carried a gun, by sex, race/ethnicity, and grade, 2007|
|Carried a weapona, b||Carried a gunb|
|aFor example, a gun, knife, or club.|
|bOn at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.|
|SOURCE: ‘Table 7. Percentage of High School Students Who Carried a Weapon and Who Carried a Gun, by Sex, Race/Ethnicity, and Grade- United States, Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2007,’ in ‘Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2007,’ Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 57, no. SS-4, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 6, 2006, http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/pdf/yrbss07_mmwr.pdf (accessed June 4, 2008)|
Julie Ray of the Gallup Organization reports in Growing up with Guns (April 15, 2003, http://www.gallup.com/poll/8197/Growing-Guns.aspx) that in 2003, 42% of teens reported there was a gun at home. (See Figure 7.9.) This percentage is comparable to the number of adults who claimed to keep a gun in the home in 2003 (43%) and in 2007 (42%). (See Table 7.5.) Ray notes that in 2003 teens with guns at home were more likely to live in the South and Midwest. White teens (51%) were more likely than African-American teens (20%) or Hispanic teens (27%) to have guns at home.
Student Reports of Threats or Injuries
Table 7.6 shows trend data on weapons threats and injuries on school property from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys of 1993 to 2005. The percentage of ninth through twelfth graders who were threatened or injured with a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or club, on school property ranged from 7.3% in 1993 to 9.2% in 2003. As happened with other crime indicators, threat reports increased from 1993 (7.3%) to 1995 (8.4%). Threat reports dropped through 1997 (7.4%), rose again through 2003 (9.2%), and then decreased substantially from 2003 to 2005 (7.9%).Males are more likely than females to be threatened or injured with a weapon. In 2005, for example, 9.7% of male students were threatened or injured with a weapon, compared to 6.1% of female students who had
similar experiences. In all the survey years, students in lower grades were more likely to be threatened than students in higher grades. From 1999 to 2005 Pacific Islander students experienced a higher percentage of threats or injuries with a weapon than other racial and ethnic groups.
Students in the District of Columbia in both 2003 and 2005 experienced a greater percentage of threats or injuries with a weapon (12.7% and 12.1%, respectively) than did students in any state that had data available on this subject. (See Table 7.7.) In 2005 states with high percentages of students being threatened or injured with a weapon were Maryland (11.7%), Arizona (10.7%), Alabama (10.6%), New Mexico (10.4%), and South Carolina (10.1%). States with low percentages of students being threatened or injured with a weapon were Massachusetts (5.4%), Oklahoma (6%), Delaware (6.2%), and Vermont (6.3%).
Barring Guns from Schools
Table 7.8 shows the percentage of high school students who carried a gun in 2007 according to state and local
|TABLE 7.5 Adult poll respondents report on guns in their home, selected years, 1959-2007|
|DO YOU HAVE A GUN IN YOUR HOME?|
|SOURCE: Adapted from Lydia Saad, ‘23. Do You Have a Gun in Your Home?’ in Shrunken Majority Now Favors Stricter Gun Laws, The Gallup Organization, October 11, 2007, http://www.gallup.com/poll/101731/Shrunken-Majority-Now-Favors-Stricter-Gun-Laws.aspx#2 (accessed June 2, 2008). Copyright © 2007 by The Gallup Organization. Reproduced by permission of The Gallup Organization.|
|2007 Oct 4-7||42||57||1||1993 Dec 17-21 1993 Oct 13-18||49 51||50 48|
|2006 Oct 9-12||43||54||3||1993 Mar 12-14||48||51|
|2005 Oct 13-16||40||59||1||1991 May 16-19||46||53|
|2004 Oct 11-14||38||61||1||1991 Mar 21-24||48||51|
|2003 Oct 6-8||43||56||1||1990 Sep 10-11||47||52|
|2002 Oct 14-17||41||58||1||1989 Feb 28-Mar 2||47||51|
|2001 Oct 11-14||40||59||1||1985 Apr 12-15||44||55|
|2000 Aug 29-Sep 5||39||60||1||1983 May 13-16||40||58|
|2000 Apr 7-9||42||57||1||1980 Jan 2||45||53|
|1999 Apr 26-27||34||64||2||1975 Oct 3-6||44||54|
|1999 Feb 8-9||36||62||2||1972 May 23||43||55|
|1997 Aug 22-25||42||57||1||1968||50||50|
|1996 Nov 21-24||44||54||2||1965 Jan 7-12||48||52|
|1996 Jul 25-28||38||60||2||1959 Jul 23-28||49||51|
surveys. The median for female students surveyed was 1.6%, which means that half the states reported more than 1.6% of female students carrying guns and half the states reported less. For male students, the median was 10.7%. The overall median was 6.5%. The states (among those surveyed) in which students were the most likely to carry a gunin2007wereNewMexico(11.7%),Wyoming(11.5%), and Idaho (10.3%). The states in which students were the least likely to carry a gun were Massachusetts (3.5%) and Iowa (3.9%). The area with the highest percentage of students carrying guns in 2007 was DeKalb County, Georgia (8.9%),followed by Milwaukee, Wisconsin(8.3%),Dallas, Texas (8.3%), and the District of Columbia (8.3%).
The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 required states to pass laws forcing school districts to expel any student who brings a firearm to school. Karen Gray-Adams and Beth Sinclair reveal in Report on the Implementation of the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 in the States and Outlying Areas: School Year 2002–03 (February 2006, http://www.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/gfsa/gfsa02-03.pdf) that 2,143 students were expelled from school during the 2002–03 academic year for carrying a gun to school. More than half of the expelled students were carrying handguns. Thirteen percent were expelled for carrying rifles or shotguns to school, and the remaining 32% were expelled for carrying other types of firearms, such as bombs, grenades, and starter pistols.
Gray-Adams and Sinclair also note the number of students expelled for carrying a firearm to school by state for the academic years 1996–97 through 2002–03. Overall,
|TABLE 7.6 Percentage of students in grades 9-12 who reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property during the last 12 months, by selected characteristics, selected years, 1993-2005|
|Student or school characteristic||1993||1995||1997||1999||2001||2003||2005|
|!Interpret data with caution.|
|aAmerican Indian includes Alaska Native, black includes African American, Pacific Islander includes Native Hawaiian, and Hispanic includes Latino. Respondents who identified themselves as being of Hispanic origin are classified as Hispanic, regardless of their race.|
|bThe response categories for race/ethnicity changed in 1999 making comparisons of some categories with earlier years problematic. In 1993, 1995, and 1997, Asian students and Pacific Islander students were not categorized separately and students were not given the option of choosing more than one race.|
|Note: ‘On school property’ was not defined for survey respondents. Population sizes from the Digest of Education Statistics, 2005 and 2002 (NCES 2006-030 and 2003-060) for students in grades 9-12 are 13,093,000 students in 1993; 13,697,000 in 1995; 14,272,000 in 1997; 14,623,000 in 1999, 15,061,000 in 2001; 15,723,000 in 2003; and 16,286,000 (projected) in 2005.|
|SOURCE: Rachel Dinkes, Emily Forrest Cataldi, and Wendy Lin-Kelly, ‘Table 4.1. Percentage of Students in Grades 9-12 Who Reported Being Threatened or Injured with a Weapon on School Property during the Previous 12 Months, by Selected Student and School Characteristics: Various Years, 1993-2005,’ in Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, and U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2007, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/crimeindicators2007/tables/table_04_1.asp (accessed April 24, 2008)|
|More than one race||b||b||b||9.3||10.3||18.7||10.7|
the number of expulsions dropped 55%, from 4,787 in the 1996–97 academic year to 2,143 in the 2002–03 academic year. Many states experienced dramatic reductions in the number of students expelled for carrying a gun over this period, including decreases in California (87%, from 723 to96), Missouri (81%, from 318 to 62), Indiana (76%, from 109 to 26), and Texas (67%, from 532 to 175).
Americans were shocked by the rash of school shootings in the 1990s, and some parents were afraid to send their children to school. The Bipartisan Working Group
|TABLE 7.7 Percentage of students in grades 9-12 who reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property during the last 12 months, by state, 2003 and 2005|
|Note: ‘On school property’ was not defined for survey respondents. The estimate for the United States is drawn from a nationally representative sample of schools and is not the aggregate of participating states. Each state estimate is based on a sample that is representative of that state. Population sizes from the Digest of Education Statistics, 2005 (NCES 2006-030) for students in grades 9-12 are 15,723,000 in 2003 and 16,286,000 (projected) in 2005.|
|SOURCE: Rachel Dinkes, Emily Forrest Cataldi, and Wendy Lin-Kelly, ‘Table 4.2. Percentage of Students in Grades 9-12 Who Reported Being Threatened or Injured with a Weapon on School Property during the Previous 12 Months, by State: 2003 and 2005,’ in Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, and U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2007, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/crimeindicators2007/tables/table_04_2.asp (accessed April 24,2008)|
|District of Columbia||12.7||12.1|
|TABLE 7.8 Percentage of high school students who carried a weapon and who carried a gun, by sex, for selected sites, 2007|
|Carried a weapona,b||Carried a qunb|
|aFor example, a gun, knife, or club.|
|bOn at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.|
|Broward County, FL||6.0||16.8||11.4||0.8||8.0||4.4|
|DeKalb County, GA||—||—||—||3.0||14.7||8.9|
|District of Columbia||16.4||27.0||21.3||2.6||14.2||8.3|
|Hillsborough County, FL||9.3||26.0||17.4||1.5||11.3||6.3|
|Los Angeles, CA||5.2||23.4||14.3||0.9||8.2||4.6|
|Miami-Dade County, FL||6.6||21.3||14.2||2.8||8.0||5.5|
|New York City, NY||6.8||16.8||11.7||0.9||5.5||3.1|
|Orange County, FL||9.1||22.9||15.8||2.6||8.2||5.3|
|Palm Beach County, FL||7.8||23.9||15.6||2.2||7.9||5.0|
on Youth Violence explores this issue in Final Report: 106th Congress (November 17, 1999, http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/lps65018/bipartisan_working_group_youth_violence_106th_final.pdf). It states that “while it is important to carefully review the circumstances surrounding these horrifying incidents so that we may learn from them, we must also be cautious about inappropriately creating a cloud of fear over every student in every classroom across the country. In the case of youth violence, it is important to note that, statistically speaking, schools are among the safest places for children to be.”
|TABLE 7.8 Percentage of high school students who carried a weapon and who carried a gun, by sex, for selected sites, 2007|
|Carried a weapona,b||Carried a qunb|
|aFor example, a gun, knife, or club.|
|bOn at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.|
|SOURCE: ‘Table 8. Percentage of High School Students Who Carried a Weapon and Who Carried a Gun, by Sex-Selected U.S. Sites, Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2007,’ in ‘Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2007,’ Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 57, no. SS-4, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 6, 2008, http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/pdf/yrbss07_mmwr.pdf (accessed June 4, 2008)|
|San Bernardino, CA||7.9||19.7||13.9||0.6||5.4||3.0|
|San Diego, CA||6.2||21.8||14.1||1.1||7.8||4.5|
|San Francisco, CA||5.6||11.5||8.6||0.9||3.3||2.1|
In Crime and Schools and Colleges: A Study of Offenders and Arrestees Reported via National Incident-Based Reporting System Data (October 2007, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/schoolviolence/2007/schoolviolence.pdf), James H. Noonan and Malissa C. Vavra of the Federal Bureau of Investigation determine after a five-year study that only 3.3% of all incidents reported through the National Incident-Based Reporting System occurred in schools. Most often, the perpetrator of the crime was a high school–aged white male. More than half of the offenses were for assaults or drug violations. Regardless, school violence occurs, and sometimes the violence is deadly.
In “School Associated Violent Deaths and School Shootings” (2007, http://www.schoolsecurity.org/trends/school_violence.html), the National School Safety and Security Services provides data on school-related violent deaths for the academic years 1999–2000 to 2007–08. Its research shows that over these nine academic years deaths due to K–12 school shootings ranged from a low of three in 2002–03 to a high of twenty-four in 2004–05. School stabbings are not as widely recognized in the media. Over these nine academic years, deaths due to school stabbings ranged from a low of one in 2001–02 to a high of ten in 2003–04. The following section describes some of the better-known K–12 school incidents and a university incident in which multiple people were shot.
Thurston High School, Springfield, Oregon
MAY 21, 1998. Fifteen-year-old Kip Kinkel (1982–) walked into the crowded cafeteria at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle. The students Mikael Nickolauson and Ben Walker were killed, and twenty-two of their classmates were injured. Kinkel's parents were later found shot to death at their home. The year before, Kinkel's father had bought his son a Ruger.22 semiautomatic rifle under the condition that he would use it only with adult supervision.
On September 24, 1999, as part of a plea agreement, Kinkel pleaded guilty to four counts of murder and twenty-six counts of attempted murder. On November 2, 1999, after a six-day sentencing hearing that included victims’ statements and the testimony of psychiatrists and psychologists, Kinkel, by then age seventeen, was sentenced to 111 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prompted by growing concerns over a rock-throwing incident that Kinkel had participated in and other behavioral problems, Faith Kinkel had taken her son to see a psychologist in January 1997, just over a year before the shootings. In this meeting the psychologist concluded that Kinkel was depressed, had difficulty managing anger, and had shown a pattern of acting out in anger.
Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado
APRIL 20, 1999. At 11:10 a.m., eighteen-year-old Eric Harris (1981–1999) arrived alone in the student parking lot at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Dylan Klebold (1981–1999), his seventeen-year-old classmate, arrived a short time later. Together, they walked to the school cafeteria carrying two large duffel bags, each concealing a twenty-pound propane bomb set to detonate at exactly 11:17 a.m. After placing the duffel bags inconspicuously among hundreds of other backpacks and bags, Harris and Klebold went back out to the parking lot to wait for the bombs to explode. As they waited, pipe bombs they had planted earlier three miles southwest of the high school exploded, resulting in a grass fire that was intended to divert the resources of the Littleton Fire Department and Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
When their planted bombs failed to explode in the cafeteria, Harris and Klebold returned to Columbine High School, this time to the west exterior steps, the highest point on campus with a view of the student parking lots and the cafeteria's entrances and exits. Both were wearing black trench coats that concealed 9mm semiautomatic weapons. They pulled out shotguns from a duffel bag and opened fire toward the west doors of the school, killing seventeen-year-old Rachel Scott. After entering the school, they killed twelve other victims, including a
teacher, before finally killing themselves. Twenty-three more people were injured.
Within days, authorities had learned that three of the guns used in the massacre were purchased the year before by Klebold's girlfriend shortly after her eighteenth birthday. On May 3, felony charges were filed against twenty-two-year-old Mark E. Manes for admittedly selling to Eric Harris the TEC-DC9 semiautomatic handgun he used in the shooting. On August 18, Manes pleaded guilty to the charge. The facts of this case as outlined came from The Columbine High School Shootings: Jefferson County Sheriff Department's Investigation Report (May 15, 2000).
THE COLUMBINE SHOOTERS. More than a year before the Columbine shootings, Harris and Klebold were arrested for breaking into a vehicle. In April 1998 both were placed in a juvenile diversion program and required to pay fines, attend anger management classes, and perform community service. Harris and Klebold successfully completed the diversion program and were released from the program on February 9, 1999, with their juvenile records cleared.
In the spring of 1998 Harris began to keep a diary, which was later recovered by authorities. In it he wrote of his desire to kill. In the only entry for 1999, Harris wrote of his and Klebold's preparations for what would become the Columbine massacre, including a detailed accounting of weapons and bombs they intended to use.
After the Columbine shootings, Klebold's father, Tom Klebold, reported to investigators that his son had never showed any fascination with guns. The Klebolds told authorities that their son had been accepted by the University of Arizona, where he planned to major in computer science. Investigators who interviewed Klebold's friends and teachers heard him described as a nice, normal teenager.
Harris and Klebold left behind three videotapes documenting their plans and philosophies. The third videotape contained eight sessions taped from early April 1999 to the morning of the Columbine shootings on April 20, and showed some of their weapons and bombs, as well as recordings they had made of each other rehearsing for the shootings.
Red Lake High School, Red Lake, Minnesota
MARCH 21, 2005. The shooting that occurred at Red Lake High School was the nation's worst since the 1999 Columbine shooting. Red Lake High School is located on a Native American reservation in northern Minnesota. Jeffrey Weise (1988–2005), a seventeen-year-old junior, killed nine people and wounded seven in his shooting spree, and then shot and killed himself. Weise began his rampage by killing his grandfather—a tribal police officer—and his grandfather's female friend at their home, using a.22 pistol of unknown origin. Weise then drove his grandfather's police cruiser to Red Lake High School. At the school, Weise used his grandfather's police-issued handguns and shotgun to kill a security guard, a teacher, and five students.
Weise came from a troubled background. He had lost his father to suicide in 1997. His mother was seriously brain-damaged in a car accident in 1999 and lived in a nursing home. Weise was thought to have posted messages on a neo-Nazi Web site. He called himself an “Angel of Death” and a “NativeNazi.” He was often ridiculed and bullied by other students for his odd behavior.
Seven days after the shooting, Louis Jourdain, the son of the tribal chairman, was arrested and charged with conspiracy. It was believed that he helped plot Weise's actions. Jourdain was tried as a juvenile, and in January 2006 he received a sentence, which, because of his juvenile status, was not made public. In July 2006 families of those injured and killed settled a lawsuit with the school district for $1 million.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia
APRIL 16, 2007. The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) massacre was the deadliest shooting rampage by a single gunman in U.S. history. A Virginia judge had declared Seung-Hui Cho mentally ill. Nonetheless, this Virginia Tech student was able to purchase two handguns. On the morning of April 16, 2007, Cho entered a residence hall on campus, shooting and killing a female student and a male resident assistant. Hours later, after returning to his dorm room to change out of his bloodied clothes and to delete various files from his computer, Cho entered a classroom building on campus and began shooting students and professors. When he finished, Cho had killed thirty-two students and faculty members and had injured fifteen others. Cho committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
Even though most school shootings are carried out by students, school property occasionally becomes the site of gun violence perpetrated by adults against children. This was the case during the fall of 2006, when in just one week two schools were the scenes of violence involving adult males who entered school grounds intending to kill young female students.
Platte Canyon High School, Bailey, Colorado
SEPTEMBER 27, 2006. Fifty-three-year-old Duane Morrison (1952–2006) entered a second-floor classroom at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado, with two handguns and a backpack that he claimed contained a bomb. Morrison, who had no apparent ties to the school, took six female students hostage, ordering the rest of the students out of the room. The students who were allowed
to leave told police that Morrison seemed to choose blonde girls of small stature to keep as hostages. Several hours later, after Morrison had released four of the girls, police burst through the classroom door, shooting Morrison several times. One of the girls escaped unharmed, but before he turned his gun on himself, Morrison shot and killed sixteen-year-old Emily Keyes. Police were unsure of Morrison's motive, but the girls who had been held hostage confirmed that Morrison—who was described as a “drifter” with a record of minor criminal offenses— had sexually assaulted them during the standoff.
West Nickel Mines Amish School, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania
OCTOBER 2, 2006. Less than one week after the incident in Bailey, Colorado, a thirty-two-year-old milk truck driver entered a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, armed with three guns, a stun gun, two knives, six hundred rounds of ammunition, and a number of instruments believed to be intended for torture and sexual assault, and ordered all male students and adult females to leave the building. He then lined up the remaining ten children—all girls, aged six to thirteen—against the blackboard and bound their feet. After escaping, a teacher at the school ran to a farmhouse that had a telephone and called police. When the police arrived, the gunman shot all ten girls and then himself. Five of the girls died.
Later identified as Charles C. Roberts IV (1973–2006), the gunman lived with his wife and children in Nickel Mines. Family and friends, including many of his Amish neighbors, were shocked by Roberts's actions, maintaining that he had appeared to be a devoted husband and father. Before taking his own life, Roberts called his wife and explained that he was plagued by guilt for having molested two young relatives when he was twelve years old and that he had recently experienced recurring dreams of molesting more girls. Police, however, were unable to confirm Roberts's story.
Reaction to the 2006 Shootings
The Nickel Mines school shooting was particularly shocking to most Americans because of the bucolic image typically associated with the Amish. The one-room schoolhouse had no security system or even a telephone, unlike schools in much of the rest of the country, which have responded to school shootings by increasing security and holding regular drills to prepare students and staff for possible violent attacks. No one would have guessed, however, that the Amish could be the targets of gun violence. The national consensus was that if it could happen there, no school was safe.
However, some experts maintain that the Platte Canyon and Nickel Mines shootings do demonstrate some important patterns. According to Gail Russell Chaddock and Mark Clayton, in “A Pattern in Rural School Shootings: Girls as Targets” (Christian Science Monitor, October 4, 2006), even though the numbers of school shootings have gone down, the level of violence they involve has increased. The sociologist Katherine Newman of Princeton University states that most victims since the 1970s have been girls. Even though Newman notes that it is unknown how many of the female victims in earlier incidents were shot randomly, the girls involved in the 2006 shootings were deliberately targeted by the gunmen. The sociologist Martin Schwartz of Ohio University blames what he believes is a “culture of violence against women” in the United States. James Fox, a criminologist at Boston's Northeastern University, compares the Platte Canyon and Nickel Mines shootings to a series of school shootings in the late 1980s, when adults with no apparent ties to schools carried out preplanned violent attacks on school grounds. According to Fox, school shootings perpetrated by adults follow a pattern of individuals “who got even with society by killing its most beloved members—schoolchildren.”
The number of children whose lives have been lost to gun violence is calculated annually by the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), a charitable organization that focuses on the needs of poor and minority children and those with disabilities. Each year the CDF ranks the states according to how they measure up in terms of children's health. Besides death by gun violence, the CDF measures factors such as insurance coverage, low birth weight babies, prenatal care, infant mortality, and immunizations.
The CDF notes in Protect Children, Not Guns 2008 (2008, http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/DocServer/Gun_report_2008.pdf?docID=7581) that gunfire killed 3,006 American children and teens in 2005. It states, “The number of children and teens in America killed by guns in 2005 would fill 120 public school classrooms of 25 students each.” Even though there has been a decline in child gun deaths since the peak year of 1994—from nearly sixteen deaths per day of children and teens by gunfire in 1994 to eight per day in 2005—104,419 children have died from gun violence between 1979 and 2005.
BB Guns Can Injure and Kill
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports in “BB Guns Can Kill” (January 23, 2001, http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/5089.pdf) that an average of four deaths per year are caused by BB guns or pellet rifles. The deaths and injuries from what many people call “toy guns” are almost always preventable. The type that has been around the longest is the spring-loaded model, which uses a spring action to propel pellets. However, technologically advanced models have also been on the market for years. One type is an air gun(also called an air rifle or pump gun),
|TABLE 7.9 Numbers and rates of BB/pellet gun nonfatal injuries, firearm nonfatal injuries, and firearm deaths, for persons aged 19 years and younger by sex, 2005|
|BB/pellet gun nonfatal injuriesa||Firearm nonfatal injuriesa||Firearm deaths|
|Age group||Sex||Number of injuries||Rate||Number of injuries||Rate||Number of deaths||Rate|
|aNonfatal injuries are national estimates calculated from known cases.|
|bMay be unreliable because of small sample size.|
|Note: Rate is the number of nonfatal injuries or deaths per 100,000 persons in that population.|
|SOURCE: Adapted from ‘Overall BB/Pellet Gunshot Nonfatal Injuries and Rates per 100,000, 2005, United States, All Races, Both Sexes, Ages 0 to 19,’ ‘Overall Firearm Gunshot Nonfatal Injuries and Rates per 100,000, 2005, United States, All Races, Both Sexes, Ages 0 to 19,’ and ‘2005, United States Firearm Deaths and Rates per 100,000, All Races, Both Sexes, Ages 0 to 19,’ in Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2008, http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars/ (accessed April 25, 2008)|
Table 7.9 shows nonfatal injuries and rates in 2005 for BB/pellet gunshots and overall firearm gunshots. It also shows 2005 firearm deaths and rates. The highest rate of nonfatal BB/pellet gunshot injuries in 2005 was in the ten- to fourteen-year-old age group. Males sustained 91% (5,444 out of 5,955) of these injuries. However, the fifteen- to nineteen-year-olds sustained the highest rate of overall nonfatal firearm gunshot injuries. Once again, it was the males who sustained most of the injuries—88% (12,831 out of 14,550) in this case. Fifteen- to nineteen-year-old males also sustained the highest rate of firearm deaths: 21.97 per 100,000 population in 2005.
Many people assume that nonpowder guns shoot at harmlessly low velocities and are suitable for children. The CDC warns that the power of some of these guns should not be underestimated and that children with BB pellet guns should never be left unsupervised. At close range, some models are capable of shooting BB/pellets at velocities comparable to pistols.