Juvenile arrestees are more likely than adult arrestees to have used a gun in committing a crime

Samples of arrestees give insight into gun use and crime

In a recent National Institute of Justice study, arrestees were interviewed to learn about gun acquisition and use. Seven of 11 study sites provided data on juvenile males: District of Columbia, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Denver, Phoenix, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Interviews were conducted on samples of individuals who were arrested and/or detained during the first 6 months of 1995.

Although sites varied, the juvenile males studied largely reflect juveniles entering the justice system nationwide. They were disproportionately black or Hispanic and most were age 15 or older. Because 5 of the 7 sites limited the study to juveniles in detention -- and not all juveniles arrested -- the offense profile for juveniles studied was skewed to more severe offenses (crimes against persons ranged from 29% to 15%).

The proportion of juveniles who admitted to current membership in a gang ranged from 2% to 41%. Many juveniles studied had a positive drug test (by urinalysis). The proportion of juveniles testing positive for marijuana ranged from 34% to 58% and the proportion testing positive for cocaine ranged from 4% to 12%.

1 in 5 juveniles studied carried a gun all or most of the time

The proportion of respondents who were charged with a weapons offense ranged from 1% to 12%. Among the juvenile males interviewed, however, 20% said they carried a gun all or most of the time. In comparison, the overall proportion of arrestees (adults and juveniles) who carried guns all or most of the time was 14%.

Gun theft and use of guns in committing crime are common

Among all arrestees interviewed, 13% reported stealing a gun. The proportion for juvenile males was 25% -- almost twice that of arrestees overall. Gang members and drug sellers were also more likely than other arrestees to have stolen a gun (each about 30%). Juveniles, drug sellers, and gang members were more likely than arrestees in general to say they had used a gun in committing crime. Overall, 23% of arrestees who owned a gun had used one in a crime. For juveniles the proportion was higher (33%), and higher still for drug sellers (42%) and gang members (50%).


Arrestees were often the victims of gun violence

Juvenile males and gang members were more likely than arrestees overall to have been shot at. Among juvenile males 5 in 10 said they had been shot at. Among gang members the proportion was nearly 8 in 10. In comparison, the overall proportion for all arrestees was about 4 in 10.

Although juveniles were more likely to be shot at, as a group, they were not more likely to suffer gunshot injury. Overall, 16% of arrestees reported gunshot injuries.

Arrestees report they carry guns for protection and respect

Two-thirds of respondents said they carried a gun for protection/self-defense. Nearly 3 in 10 arrestees agreed that, "Your crowd respects you if you have a gun." Among drug sellers and gang members the proportion was higher (4 in 10). When asked when using a gun was appropriate, 9% agreed that "It is okay to shoot someone who disrespected you." Among juveniles the proportion agreeing was double (18%). For drug sellers 21% agreed as did 34% of gang members.

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Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1997 Update on Violence