The idea of armed teens running around our schools is downright horrifying. We’ve seen multiple stories over the last year or so of teens being caught with firearms on school campuses as well, so it’s happening.
It also seems to be happening more often than in previous years.
Yet the question isn’t just whether it’s happening more often but also whether it’s really something to be alarmed by.
A recent study suggests it is, and some media outlets are jumping on that.
As schools adjust their schedules to include active shooter drills and the debate on firearm restrictions continues, more guns are falling into the hands of adolescents.
The number of teens carrying handguns increased by 41% from 2002 to 2019, according to a 2022 report from Boston College published in the Journal of Pediatrics. However, this increase isn’t consistent across all teens.
In a shift from the demographic of the early 2000s, the largest percentage to carry are now white teens, particularly male, from higher-income families in rural areas, while the number of teens carrying handguns has decreased among adolescents from lower-income families and among Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native children.
“It’s really important for people to not assume they know what kind of kids carry guns, and that goes for pediatricians and public health workers,” said Naoka Carey, a doctoral student and co-author of the study. “You need to be educating families and young people about the risks for carrying a gun, whether they come from a low-income or high-income family.”
Boston College’s study comes nearly a week after a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported firearm-related deaths overtook car accidents as the leading cause of death for adolescents in 2020.
Oh, well, that settles it, right?
Not so fast.
First, let’s understand exactly what we’re talking about here. We need context that this report simply isn’t giving us. I know, it’s shocking that we’re not getting context on the subject of guns, but it’s true.
The report claims that there’s a 41 percent increase, and that’s true. But that 41 percent represents an increase in the percentage of armed teens. From the report linked in the above-quoted article, that’s an increase from 3.3 percent between 2002 and 2006 to 4.6 percent from 2015 to 2019.
That’s a difference of 1.3 percent total, though the increase is more than 40 percent. Yet it’s a 41 percent increase from a very low number, which means it’s still a ridiculously low number.
Missing from this study, though? Actual numbers.
See, they give us percentages but make no estimates about the total number of armed teens.
Additionally, this is gathered via self-reported surveys, which aren’t always accurate. Some may report carrying a gun when they do no such thing. Why? Because they’ve gotten so used to claiming they do that they keep the lie up even when no one will know.
Of course, the flip side is that some will report they’re not carrying when they are, lying out of fear that the survey isn’t as anonymous as reported.
So, there are questions about the validity of the total numbers anyway, but it doesn’t matter because the researchers didn’t provide those.
Further, the fear of armed teens becoming a massive problem is massively overblown.