Chicago teens living in safer neighborhoods less likely to carry concealed firearms


CHICAGO – Chicago children and adolescents living in neighborhoods that are safer, more cohesive, and less disordered are less likely to carry firearms, according to a new study in the July issue of The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"Under federal law, individuals younger than 18 years are prohibited from owning handguns and in most states from carrying concealed weapons. Nonetheless, data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and other studies indicate high levels of self-reported gun carrying among American youth," the article states.

Beth E. Molnar, Sc.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from 1,842 children between the ages 9 and 19 living in 218 Chicago neighborhoods, and identified whether neighborhood characteristics have an effect upon the tendency of a youth to carry a concealed firearm, beyond neighborhood economic differences and individual and family risk factors for carrying. Data for the study came from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods and were collected between 1995 and 2000.

"In this study 4.9 percent of males and 1.1 percent of females….reported having carried a concealed firearm," at some point during their lifetime, authors found. "Restricting the current analysis to youth aged 14 to 18 years, the prevalence of having carried a gun was 9.3 percent among males and 1.8 percent among females."

Researchers also found that children and adolescents are more likely to carry a concealed firearm if they live in a Chicago neighborhood that has certain identifiable characteristics that may foster a fear of being victimized.

"We found that youth in safer and less disordered neighborhoods were less likely than youth in unsafe and more disordered neighborhoods to carry concealed firearms," the authors write.

In conclusion the authors write, "Decreasing the degree to which a community is burdened by threatening or hostile behavior by adults, reclaiming the number of public spaces available for children to play in and supporting adults who are willing to intervene in the lives of their community's children may positively alter the social dynamics that currently contribute to concealed firearm carrying by youth" (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158:657-664. Available post-embargo at

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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