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State Gun Law Environment and Youth Gun Carrying in the United States

Ziming Xuan, ScD, SM, MA1; David Hemenway, PhD2
[+] Author Affiliations
1Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
2Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(11):1024-1031. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.2116.
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Importance  Gun violence and injuries pose a substantial threat to children and youth in the United States. Existing evidence points to the need for interventions and policies for keeping guns out of the hands of children and youth.

Objectives  (1) To examine the association between state gun law environment and youth gun carrying in the United States, and (2) to determine whether adult gun ownership mediates this association.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This was a repeated cross-sectional observational study design with 3 years of data on youth gun carrying from US states. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey comprises data of representative samples of students in grades 9 to 12 from biennial years of 2007, 2009, and 2011. We hypothesized that states with more restrictive gun laws have lower rates of youth gun carrying, and this association is mediated by adult gun ownership.

Exposures  State gun law environment as measured by state gun law score.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Youth gun carrying was defined as having carried a gun on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.

Results  In the fully adjusted model, a 10-point increase in the state gun law score, which represented a more restrictive gun law environment, was associated with a 9% decrease in the odds of youth gun carrying (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 0.91 [95% CI, 0.86-0.96]). Adult gun ownership mediated the association between state gun law score and youth gun carrying (AOR, 0.94 [ 95% CI, 0.86-1.01], with 29% attenuation of the regression coefficient from −0.09 to −0.07 based on bootstrap resampling).

Conclusions and Relevance  More restrictive overall gun control policies are associated with a reduced likelihood of youth gun carrying. These findings are relevant to gun policy debates about the critical importance of strengthening overall gun law environment to prevent youth gun carrying.

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Correlations of Prevalence of Youth Gun Carrying With State Gun Law Score and Adult Gun Ownership for 38 States

Measured by the ratio of firearm-related suicide divided by all suicide (FS/S ratio). Youth gun carrying data from Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Surveys, 2007, 2009, and 2011.13

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Submit a Comment
Lawful versus Unlawful possession
Posted on September 21, 2015
Richard Gregor
Normandale Community College
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
What concerns me most with this study was the lack of differentiating between legal gun \"carrying\" and illegal possession of a firearm. Firearm sports are growing across the nation, especially in states that have less restrictive firearm laws (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-09/making-guns-cool-high-schools-embrace-shooting-as-hot-new-sport), additionally hunting rates in many states with less restrictive firearm laws is also much higher. For example compare the hunting rates of the general population and youth in Alaska (http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/fhw11-ak.pdf) to rates in California (http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/fhw11-ca.pdf).
It is important to note the difference between the legal use and possession of firearms and the illegal possession of firearms. By ignoring the difference between the two you are painting a false picture and spreading misinformation.
Failure to distinguish between legal and illegal gun \"carrying\"
Posted on September 28, 2015
Seth Breitbart
Solo Practitioner
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
There seems to be an egregious error in this article, which is the failure to differential between legal and illegal firearm \"carrying\" (a.k.a. possession). The article erroneously assumes that youth handling of firearms is automatically illegal, which is not true at all. After all, if a high school student participates in adult-supervised target shooting on a monthly basis (e.g. a legal activity involving firearms), he/she would have to answer the affirmative in the YRBS questionnaire. Additionally, logic would dictate that, in the states with more lax gun laws, target shooting and hunting are more popular among the youth population than in states with more restrictive laws where less people overall participate in these activities. The study fails to acknowledge this very logical rationale as to why states with lax gun-control laws have a higher incidence of youth gun carrying.

In addition to attempting to distinguish legal and illegal gun possession, this study would have been much more valuable if it also examined the prevalence of gun-related crime and gun-related suicide in the youth population in states with a low Brady score versus states with a high Brady score. Also, to examine youth exposure to violence, the authors could have even used the same YRBS questionnaire that they used in the study, since one of the questions listed reads,\"During the past 12 months, how many times has someone threatened or injured you with a weapon such as a gun, knife, or club on school property?\" (http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/crosswalk_1991-2015.pdf) By including this question in the study, the authors could have looked beyond mere gun usage and attempted to identify a correlation between rates of youth gun usage and rates of youth exposure to violence in school.

In conclusion, unless there is an association between a higher Brady score with lower youth gun-crime or gun-related suicides, then it does not matter if more youths are carrying weapons (as your study shows), because that would just mean that such youths are likely involved in legal firearm activities, such as recreational or competitive target shooting or hunting.
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