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Among the industrialized nations of the world, the United States has the highest rate of youthful gun-related violence. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, juvenile gun violence reached its highest point, from which there has been some slight decline. The number of homicides by guns doubled from the 1970s.


Although the Youth Handgun Safety Act of 1994 prohibits gun possession by anyone under 18, youth appear to have little difficulty in obtaining a gun. Some 42% of 7th and 10th graders in Milwaukee and Boston reported they could get a gun if they wanted one. One 1999 National Survey CDC (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review) found that 1 in 10 male high school students had carried a gun in the last 30 days. In some schools and neighborhoods, virtually every teenager either has a gun or knows someone who does.


More young people die by gunshot than any other suicide method. This is now true for girls as well as boys, for younger or older teens, and for those of all races. Among U.S. 10 to 19 year-olds, there were 1,078 suicides with guns in 1999—that works out to an average of three a day. Young people most often take their lives by guns in their homes, and studies show the accessibility of firearms is related to the risk of suicide among young people.


Guns are an essential feature of military operations. Many also believe guns are important in civilian life for hunting and/or personal/family—perhaps community—protection. Guns are an important cultural symbol for many, a hobby for others. Those who are pro-gun see such weapons as a protected right in the U.S.  Guns can even be seen by some as a Constitutional mandate.


Pacifists are usually against guns in principle. Feminists and liberals may see guns as part of patriarchal control and masculine aggressiveness. Those who mourn the loss of loved ones in inner cities may hate guns as much as they are loved by hunters. And solutions to urban violence often involve a reduction in guns, which so easily fall into the hands of angry young people.


One great issue of the gun debate is whether the presence of guns makes life safer or more dangerous for civilian populations. Gun advocates argue that though news media scream out headlines of gun deaths, there is no coverage of the crimes avoided because of gun defense.


John R. Lott Jr. has written More Guns, Less Crime. He argues forcibly against five myths promoted by anti-gun advocates. 1. When one is attacked, passive behavior is the safest approach. 2. Friends or relatives are the most likely killers. 3. The United States has a high murder rate because Americans own so many guns. 4. If law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry concealed handguns, people will end up shooting each other after traffic accidents as well as accidentally shooting police officers. 5. The family gun is more likely to kill you or someone you know than to kill in self-defense. To each of these Lott gives a strong counter argument.


Bob Ricker, on the other hand was a top lawyer for the National Rifle Association (NRA). From there he went on to become a lobbyist for gun manufacturers. More recently, however he is on a crusade against the NRA. The reason? In 2000, Smith & Wesson agreed with the Clinton administration to put safety locks on guns, improve technology that would prevent or hinder usage by anyone other than the owner, and to stop selling guns at gun shows without proper background checks. To most this seemed to be a reasonable compromise. But to others and the NRA, this was an infringement on their Constitutional rights and easy use of firearms. The NRA called for a boycott of the company, and as a result, the company went out of business being sold for a price under its market value. Ricker is now persona non grata in many gun circles.




1.     What are your own views about guns and violence?  What do you see as proper uses of guns?


2.     What kind of gun control would you favor?

3.     In your opinion, what should be done to a high school student found carrying a gun in school?

4.     What do you see as the relationship between the accessibility of guns and homicides and suicides among young people?

5.     What kind of gun education do you favor? When and how? What should be its relationship to anger and depression management?



1.     Since Canadians have as many guns per person as UnitedState citizens, there must be other factors involved in high U.S. gun violence—factors such as anger and fear.


2.        Misuse of guns calls for a national consideration of all aspects of the issue—from discussions in schools to community forums and legislative consideration. It is important that we learn to talk across deep emotional divides on this and other social controversies.


3.     We must do much along the lines of youth violence prevention.


Dean Borgman    cCYS