Motivations for gun possession and carrying among serious juvenile offenders

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Motivations for gun possession and carrying among serious juvenile offenders

Category: Crime, Defensive Gun Use, Firearm Availability, Youth|Journal: Behavioral Sciences & the Law|Author: J Sheley, J Wright|Year: 1993

Though the prevalence of gun possession and carrying among juveniles is now fairly well documented (at least among non-serious offenders), little research has examined juveniles’ reasons for possessing and carrying guns beyond noting that youth who report robbery and assaultive behavior have higher rates of gun and other weapon possession than do non-violent youth. The present study examines the question of motivation behind gun possession and carrying by criminally-inclined youths through analysis of survey data collected from juveniles incarcerated in maximum security reformatories. The findings support the popular fear that juvenile offenders are heavily involved in gun-related crime, though the same findings point to multiple needs and uses for guns. Using a number of measures—reasons for carrying guns, for using them during the commission of crimes, for purchasing them, etc.—it appears that the primary reason for gun possession and carrying is the juvenile’s perception of the need to be armed for protection. This is the case even among those who were involved in such predatory crimes as armed robbery prior to incarceration. Thus, legislative attempts to dissuade youth from obtaining guns to commit crimes are likely misplaced, since the guns eventually used in crime are usually obtained for protective purposes. Only when firearms are perceived as no longer needed can we expect a serious drop in gun-related offenses among youth.

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