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How Youthful Offenders Perceive Gun Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
38 pages
An exploratory pilot study conducted in Los Angeles during July-August 1998 sought to determine points of influence at the individual level that might deter gun violence by youth.
Information came from 36 youthful offenders in Los Angeles Juvenile Hall. The interviews examined youths’ perceptions of risks and benefits of carrying or using firearms. Results revealed that all the youths had committed delinquent acts; four had committed murder. Most youths were members of street gangs, but only 24 percent said that they intended to remain involved with a gang. The majority stated their belief that they had a choice of whether or not to carry a gun. Most also acknowledged that it is wrong to shoot a person to gain respect or to obtain something they want. However, nearly 60 percent thought it acceptable to use a gun in response to the family being hurt. Most of these youth had experienced violence. Many expected to be victimized, arrested, or dead in the next year. They expressed various reasons for expecting that they might be shot on the street even if they themselves were to stop gang banging. They tended not to expect that police could protect them from being shot. Findings suggested that two possible points of influence for these youths were to change the norms regarding gun violence and to build on these youths’ strengths by providing them with needed resources such as education to enable them to leave the neighborhood and a life filled with violence. Figures and tables

Date Published: January 1, 1999