Lock, stock and youth in peril


In bringing awareness to June as National safety month, the following is greatly indebted to the Center for American Progress report “Young Guns: How Gun Violence is Destroying the Millennial Generation” by Chelsea Parsons and Anne Johnson, February 2014.

A plague of violence

Gun fatalities are on track to overtake traffic accidents this year as the number one cause of death for people ages 15 to 24. In 2010, 65 percent of gun murder victims were black men ages 15 to 24 — when only 13 percent of the population is black. That equates to more than 73 young black men out of 100,000 were murdered by a gun.

American children and teenagers are more likely to die by gunfire than their Canadian, Israeli, or UK counterparts. In 2010, 21 percent of people killed by guns were under the age of 25. Homicide was the second most common cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 in 2010. Of those murdered, 83 percent were killed with a gun.

The 17 to 29 age group runs the greatest risk of being shot by a gun. Again, in 2010, 5,494 people in this age group were murdered with a gun. 33,519 were intentionally shot but survived. And while it is true that other diseases claim more lives, gun deaths rob America of more than one million potential life years — the years when these youth would complete college, enter the workforce, raise families, and contribute to society in ways which defy classification.

Young guns, gunning

In 2012, more than 75,000 people ages 10 to 29 were arrested for illegal weapons. In 2011, nearly 5,000 people ages 12 to 24 were arrested for murder. 70 percent of the killings involved a gun. A 20-year-old sentenced for a gun crime will serve a long sentence. States and the federal government have taken a hard line with respect to juvenile and young adult violence. At last tally, the cost of incarcerating a 20-year-old individual for life is $2 million. 10 states have lowered the age limit to 16 for trying violent juveniles as adults.

In 2010, the cost attributed to gun violence in the U.S. was estimated at $174 billion.

Not my kid

The Child Trends Data Bank maintains extensive statistics on juvenile and young adult crime. These statistics are broken down by race, neighborhood, economic conditions and more. Black and Hispanic children are more likely to live in neighborhoods identified as unsafe by their parents. As noted earlier, young black men in inner cities are being decimated by gunfire. The term “ghettoside” is being offered to encapsulate the fratricide. Ghettoside refers to the murders of black men by other black men. In her book of the same name, Jill Leovy, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, writes, “Where the criminal justice system fails to respond vigorously to violent injury and death, homicide becomes endemic.” She refers to spate of blacks killing blacks as a plague.

Some parents might find some level of comfort in believing this unsettling trend is confined to urban areas or those neighborhoods that, historically, have high crime rates. But youth gun violence is not limited to tit-for-tat or retribution killings. According to a Child Trends’ survey, one in three high school males admitted to bringing a weapon to school. Any parent confident that their child is safe would do well to remember that youth gun violence is analogous to driving. A person may be a safe driver but that person has absolutely no idea if those around him are as safe.

What parents can do

Law enforcement is unambiguous when it comes to keeping a gun in the house: don’t. Only 11 states have laws requiring firearms be locked when stored in the home, but none of these laws is absolute. The majority of handguns are stolen from private residences. And despite the occasional story of a homeowner thwarting a robbery by brandishing a weapon, studies prove having a gun in the house does not reduce crime. It does, however, increase the likelihood that a child will accidentally shoot himself or someone else.

Here in Utah, local law enforcement have spearheaded a child safety campaign, giving out free firearm locks.

Parents must also stay abreast of what happens in their kids’ schools. Bullying, emotional problems, behavior issues—it would be a stretch to believe any of these would result in a shooting. But what about other kids in school? One of them might not be so emotionally grounded. It is of paramount importance that parents remain vigilant about their kids’ lives. Be involved. Participate.

Differential Association Theory

Parents need to monitor the company their children keep. Edwin Sutherland was an American sociologist who pioneered the theory known as Differential Association. Basically, this theory maintains criminal behavior is learned behavior. Kids model the behavior of their family and peers. If a child grows up in a violent environment, chances are good that child will become violent. If a child associates with criminals, chances are good he, too, will develop criminal behavior. Obviously, there are a number of variables that factor into how children develop and acquire their values — life is much more complex than a single theory would have us believe. But statistics — and simple logic — prove that a child is more likely to commit a gun crime if he has access to a weapon.

White River Academy is a residential boarding school for boys 12 to 17, located at the brim of the awe-inspiring Great Basin in Delta, Utah. White River focuses on treating young men with addiction and mental health disorders. Enrollment in White River Academy is straightforward, with rolling admissions, so your son can be admitted to our therapeutic boarding school at any point throughout the year. We blend academic and therapeutic activities to facilitate your son’s personal growth into a successful, well-rounded man.

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