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Kids who witness gun violence more likely to illegally carry

Image by MikeGunner from Pixabay

While I do not remotely blame guns for anything, I will acknowledge that we do have a problem here in the United States. Our violent crime rate is way too high, particularly violent crimes involving firearms.

It’s in our best interest to find ways to address this because if we don’t, that rate will be used to try and restrict our rights, and while the Supreme Court is on our side here and now, we can’t guarantee that will always be the case.

Which is why this study was so interesting to me.

Teenagers who witness different types of violence are more likely to carry a firearm, according to a new study led by the University of Michigan.

Researchers examined data from a  that polled more than 2,100 U.S. teens and found that reducing exposure to violence may be one mechanism for disrupting cycles of violence among teen populations.

Fourteen percent of study participants reported having witnessed firearm-related violence, and 66% reported having witnessed nonfirearm-related violence over a 12-month period. Those who witnessed firearm-related violence, such as seeing someone use a gun to threaten another person, were 3.7 times more likely to carry a firearm than those who had not witnessed any gun violence, the research shows.

And those who witnessed nonfirearm-related violence, such as seeing someone physically harm another person, were 4.3 times more likely to carry a firearm than those who had not witnessed nonfirearm-related violence. Notably, there was no correlation between witnessing gun-related violence and witnessing nongun-related violence, suggesting that these are two unique exposures.

So witnessing a violent crime makes one more likely to carry a firearm.

This really shouldn’t be overly shocking. I mean, how many people start lawfully carrying a gun because of violent crime, either witnessing it, someone they know experiencing it, or just hearing about it all the time on the news?

That drive isn’t unusual.

The problem is that this study looked at people aged 14-18. They’re too young to lawfully carry a firearm.

What that doesn’t mean, though, is that they somehow lack the desire to defend themselves. A CBS News report looking at Chicago’s gun issue notes that a lot of people are carrying them for self-defense, despite being convicted felons.

These kids are likely getting firearms the same way, obviously, but the drive is no different, either. They see violence, they fear violence, so they want a gun to carry for protection.

Now, I’m not excusing anything. They’re kids. They have no business carrying a firearm around as a general rule. They’re too young to do things like that without parental supervision. Period.

But I get the desire to do so, especially if they witness violence.

The question is, what should we do about it?

For some, this is evidence we need gun control, but that’s someone who is looking for justification, not answers. The study found that it doesn’t matter if it’s gun violence or some other kind of violence. Since our non-gun homicide rate is also higher than most nations’ total murder rate, new restrictions are unlikely to accomplish much.

After all, these kids are getting guns despite all the laws against it as things currently stand.

What we apparently need is to find some way to address the trauma of witnessing an act of violence so they don’t opt to go down that road.

I have no issue with them carrying a gun when they’re of age. In fact, I think they should–everyone should, after all–but not beforehand. That needs to be addressed because, frankly, they’re too young at this age to act responsibly.

So we need to look in that direction for answers and maybe, as a result, we can stop the violent crime spiral.