The purpose of this study was to examine multiple ways youth may access firearms among a sample of urban, mountain west youth, and explore whether youth reporting various types of violence involvement and other behavioral or mental health factors have differential access to firearms compared with youth who do not report these issues.
A cross-sectional community-based survey was conducted among adolescents aged 10–17 years and one of their parents. The main outcomes were youth firearm access and possession and associated violence and behavioral and mental health factors. Bivariate and binomial logistic regression, controlling for demographic factors, was used to determine associations and predictors.
One thousand one hundred youth and 730 parents participated. Nearly half of youth were male; 58.2% were Hispanic, 24.7% non-Hispanic black, 10.5% multiracial, 3.9% other, and 2.5% white. About 20% were categorized as having potential access to firearms (i.e., youth knows how and/or where to access firearms); 1.9% possessed a firearm. Analyses revealed that being physically aggressive (odds ratio [OR] 2.7), risk for future violence perpetration (OR 2.6), using alcohol (OR 2.0), having internalizing symptoms (OR 1.9), peer problems (OR 1.9), and older age (OR 1.26) predicted youth’s possible access to firearms. Marijuana use (OR 9.9), parental gun ownership (OR 6.5), and reported delinquency (OR 8.3) predicted youth’s firearm possession.
Youth with potential firearm access demonstrate more violence risk and involvement, and other behavioral or mental health issues than youth without potential firearm access. Parental firearm ownership predicts youth firearm possession. It is important for both health-care providers and parents to recognize these potentially lethal associations to provide appropriate counseling.