Why urban teens turn to guns: urban teens’ own words on gun violence

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Why urban teens turn to guns: urban teens’ own words on gun violence

Category: Youth|Journal: Public Health (full text)|Author: B Beck, E Dorsey, K Zusevics|Year: 2019


Missing from the discussion of youth and gun violence are qualitative data from diverse youth regarding their perspectives on gun violence in their communities and what will help prevent or reduce such violence. The purpose of this exploratory study was therefore to gain a deeper understanding of urban teens’ perceptions of gun violence in the context of their daily lives and gather their ideas for reducing or preventing gun violence through meaningful discussions with urban teens.


Study design

Focus group discussions.



A total of 29 urban teens aged between 14 and 18 years participated in two separate focus group discussions between August 2016 and July 2017. Participants engaged in an open-ended discussion guided by 12 semistructured questions that addressed their perceptions of community safety, the need to carry a gun, police relations, the need for community change, and their ideas to reduce gun violence and help make their communities safer. Data were analyzed using a thematic approach.



Teens’ perceptions of racism and poor relations with the police are tied to gun violence, while they identified the need for better relations with the police and meaningful, long-term relationships with adults as factors to help prevent or reduce gun violence.



Long-term reductions in community violence will not occur until larger social issues are addressed. While waiting for these concerns to be addressed, secondary prevention, including mentoring programs and other efforts to build meaningful relationships between adults and teens can foster teen resilience and activism in the face of gun violence.

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