A new study suggests that teens living in states with less restrictive gun laws are more likely to carry firearms. The research, published online Sept. 21 in JAMA, found that in states with stricter gun laws, 5.7 percent of surveyed students had carried a gun in the past month, compared with 7.3 percent in states with more permissive gun laws.
“The government and adults in other developed countries have made it difficult for youth to access handguns. However, our study showed that about a quarter of U.S. adolescents reported easy access to a gun in their home,” co-author Ziming Xuan, ScD, an assistant professor of community health and services at Boston University School of Health, told Reuters Health.
And those guns are robbing us of our children. Each year from 1999 to 2013, an average of 15,000 kids ages 12 to 19 died in the U.S., according to JAMA news release. The three leading causes of death among teens were unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide, and of these fatal youth injuries, guns were involved in 83 percent of the homicides and 45 percent of the suicides.
For the study, Xuan and his colleagues graded states on their gun control laws using annual reports released by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence for the years 2007, 2009 and 2011. The Center scores states on a 0 to 100 scale, with higher scores assigned to states with a tighter gun environment.
A gun control advocacy group, the Brady Center ranks states’ gun laws based on their control of firearm trafficking, measures to ensure child safety and restrictions on guns in public places. The research team looked at 38 states and found significant variations in state-level gun laws, with average scores ranging from a low of 1.3 in Utah to a high of 79.7 in California.
As part of the study, the researchers also analyzed data from the federal Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. Information was collected on students from grades nine through 12 who were asked if they had carried a gun at least one day during the 30 days prior to the survey.
The researchers found that for each 10 point increase in the state’s gun law score, there was a 9 percent decrease in the chances a teen would report carrying a gun. More telling, however, was the finding that there was an association between adult gun ownership in states with less restrictive laws and the increased 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 told HealthDay. “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,” he added.
“The important message in this paper is that gun control really involves comprehensive laws from both dimensions,” making sure that gun ownership among adults is safe and restricting ownership and use in youth, Xuan told CNN.