Armed Teens a Growing Problem In Many Places, but Gun Control's Not the Solution

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Federal law prohibits the sale of handguns to anyone under the age of 21. Some states have expanded this prohibition to include long guns. It's not great, but it's what people have to live with.


One such state is Florida, which enacted the prohibition in the wake of the Parkland massacre.

It was a stupid law--at best, closing the barn door after the horse escaped--but really just one unlikely to stop violent people but more likely to hurt law-abiding adults who just happen to be under 21.

Yet despite the fact that teens under the age of 18 can't buy any guns and none under the age of 21 can buy handguns, it seems a lot of them are being found with firearms at an increasing rate.

Gun use among children is on the rise both nationally and in the Tampa Bay area. A recent report from Everytown shows children unintentionally shot and killed 157 people and injured 270 last year.

According to Safe and Sound Hillsborough, in 2022, 201 kids were arrested on firearm charges. In 2023, that number jumped up to 221.

This year, we are off to a bad start, with 74 children already dealing with firearm charges. 


"We are in court every day, and we are seeing more and more juveniles getting their hands on guns," said CEO Freddy Barton.

Barton explained that 80% of guns that kids are getting come from unlocked cars. He said firearm owners need to properly lock up and store their guns.

He also said parents need to check their child's backpack and bedrooms to make sure they have not gotten a hold of a gun.

I don't really have a source for that 80 percent figure--is that a confirmed number or just Barton's guesstimate based on what he sees?--but a lot of teens are getting them that way.


Of course, we don't know where they get the argument that this is happening nationally, either. There's no source for that and I'm generally skeptical of any claim that appears right next to a link to Everytown, after all.

But Tampa isn't the only place experiencing this by any measure.

It seems Houston is having some issues as well.

A recent effort launched by Crime Stoppers of Houston hopes to find solutions to school violence hiding within data on guns brought to campuses. To achieve this goal officials with Crime Stoppers are examining all cases in Harris County where a person has been charged with bringing a gun on to a school campus.

“We want to do the deep dive, we want to ask the difficult questions and we want to understand why this is happening,” said Crime Stoppers CEO, Rania Mankarious. “Is it an issue of communities feeling unsafe where people are bringing weapons, or people feeling the need to protect themselves, or are there mental health issues that are untreated? Kids who are angry, adults who are angry.”

According to data compiled by Crime Stoppers from 2022 through March of this year, there have been 83 cases of a person charged with bringing a gun on to a school campus. Director of Victim Services for Crime Stoppers, Andy Kahan said the cases he’s reviewed show this happening at elementary school campuses all the way up to college campuses.


For the record, Houston has a total of 274 schools, just to give you some perspective.

Yet in Houston, it's clear they're doing more than just complaining about teenagers getting guns. They're also looking at why they're getting them. 

See, I've always just sort of chalked up armed teenagers as being either affiliated with gang culture or someone who idolizes gang culture. It seems a reasonable assumption. They're either gang bangers or they want people to think they are.

In short, they think having a gun in school makes them look cool.

Yet Crime Stoppers of Houston isn't falling into the same trap as I have. They don't want to assume, they want to know. They want to know if it's because of bullying or fear of being shot at on their way to and from school. They want to know exactly why they're carrying a gun onto a school campus because when you know, you can address the root cause of it all.

That's important and I applaud them for it.

I just hope we can get some answers that will allow us to apply that information across the nation.

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