U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Gun Ownership and Gang Membership

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Volume: 86 Issue: 1 Dated: (Fall 1995) Pages: 37-58
B Bjerregaard; A J Lizotte
Date Published
22 pages
The relationship between gun ownership, gun use, and gang membership is examined, with emphasis on the causal order of the relationship between illegal gun ownership and gang membership.
Data came from the Rochester Youth Development Study, a longitudinal panel study examining the causes and correlates of juvenile delinquency in a high-risk sample of 987 youths from Rochester, New York. The youths attended the 7th and 8th grades of the Rochester public schools during the 1987- 88 school year. Data on gang membership and gun ownership was collected at waves 7 through 9, when the participants averaged 18 years of age. Results clearly indicated that gang members are significantly more likely to own guns than non-gang members, to have peers who own guns for protection, and to carry their weapons outside the home. The youths who eventually join a gang display slightly inflated rates of both gun ownership and delinquency before they become gang members. Youths who drop out of a gang experience a decrease in their levels of participation in both the gun subculture and in delinquent behaviors. Findings concerning current gang members support the learning perspective, whereas findings regarding gun ownership provide only minimal support for the learning perspective. Findings suggest that society may be able to target juveniles who are susceptible to gang recruitment and aim intervention strategies at this narrower population. Tables and footnotes