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Gun Acquisition and Possession in Selected Juvenile Samples

NCJ Number
Joseph F. Sheley Ph.D.; James D. Wright Ph.D.
Date Published
December 1993
11 pages
This study analyzed the number and types of guns owned by a sample of juveniles and where, how, and why they were obtained.
Questionnaires were voluntarily and anonymously completed by 835 male serious offenders incarcerated in six juvenile correctional facilities in four States. A total of 758 male students in 10 inner-city high schools near the correctional facilities also completed the questionnaire. Because of the characteristics of the samples, the results are not generalizable to the U.S. population. Eighty-three percent of the inmates and 22 percent of the students possessed guns. Fifty-five percent of the inmates carried guns all or most of the time in the year or two before their incarceration; 12 percent of the students did so, with another 23 percent carrying guns now and then. The firearms of choice were high-quality, powerful revolvers, closely followed by automatic and semiautomatic handguns and then shotguns. Most of those surveyed considered it easy to acquire a gun. When asked how they would get a gun, 45 percent of the inmates and 53 percent of the students said they would "borrow" one from family or friends; 54 percent of the inmates and 37 percent of the students said they would get one "off the street." A total of 43 percent of the inmates and 5-6 percent of students said they used hard drugs. More inmates than students reported selling drugs. The main reason given for owning or carrying a gun was self- protection. Researchers concluded that the fundamental policy problem is convincing youths they can survive in their neighborhoods without being armed. 4 tables, 7 notes, and 15 references