Keeping Troubled Teens Safe: The Statistics on Young People and Guns

Study finds that teens are less likely to carry a firearm in states with tougher gun laws

Teenagers are going to be less likely to keep a firearm on them if they live in a state with stronger gun control laws, according to a new study. The study was published today in JAMA Pediatrics seeing that firearms are having a growing influence on the health of minors in the United States due to suicide, homicide, and other violent crimes. However, it’s important to note that the only aspect studied was the association between gun control laws and the odds of teens carrying firearms.

For the study’s parameters, researchers graded each state’s gun control laws on a scale of zero to 100 and compared that score against data from a federal survey that asked kids if they had carried a gun around at least once during the previous month.


For every 10 points that a state gained towards tougher gun control laws, there was a 9 percent decrease in the chances that a teen would report carrying a gun, according to the study.

“By reducing the availability of guns, potentially you can have a substantial impact on public safety,” said lead author Ziming Xuan, an assistant professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health.

More interestingly, the study found a relationship that is based on adult gun ownership. If restrictive gun laws lowered the rate of adult gun ownership, then teens were less likely to have guns to carry around in the first place.

Why does this study matter?

Background information in the study found that an average of 15,000 teens die in the United States, and three of the leading causes of those deaths were unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide. Firearms played a role in 83 percent of youth homicides, and about half of suicides involved a gun, Xuan told HealthDay.


For the study, using the scorecard created by the researchers, Utah had the lowest gun control with a score of 1.3, but California tipped the scales with 79.7. The scores were determined on a variety of factors and were designed to consider efforts to curb firearm trafficking, strengthen background checks, ensure child safety, banning military-style assault weapons, and restricting guns in public places.

The study’s authors claim that it shows a direct correlation between gun laws and the chance that a teen would carry a firearm. Further, it points out the direct connection between adult gun ownership and the odds of a teen carrying a gun.

“It’s very likely explained by the fact that the youth are getting their guns from adults,” Xuan says, “If a state with strong gun control is able to reduce the amount of adult gun ownership, it will reduce the number of kids carrying guns.”

Some people in the study are now saying that it can be used as evidence that states should consider teens and young people when they make laws concerning gun control. But despite the law, it is important that parents maintain a consistent presence and awareness of their teen’s life and activities. By teaching teens responsibility and important life lessons, it can make them safer individuals, with or without a firearm.

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