Study links adult gun ownership to higher rate of youth gun possession

A new study has found that states with strong gun control laws also have lower incidents of teens carrying firearms, with a parallel correlation between adult gun ownership and a high rate of teens packing.    

“It’s very likely explained by the fact that the youth are getting their guns from adults,” said Ziming Xuan, lead author of the study and assistant professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health. “If a state with strong gun control is able to reduce the amount of adult gun ownership, it will reduce the number of kids carrying guns.”

Using the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s annual scorecard, Xuan and other researchers graded states on their efforts to curb firearm trafficking, strengthen background checks, ensure child safety, ban military-style “assault weapons” and restrict guns in public places, according to analysis from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System was also used to determine that of the 15,000 teen deaths in the United States, some 83 percent were firearms related and half of the total deaths were suicides involving a firearm, according to the study.

Each state’s gun control laws were graded on a scale of zero to 100 and then compared to a federal survey in which teens were asked whether they had carried a gun at least once in the previous month.

The study, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, is “basically saying, adult gun ownership is the real problem,” said Bindu Kalesan, adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study.

Vik Khanna begs to differ. The St. Louis-based healthcare consultant and gun owner told the problem is one of responsible adult gun ownership, “which is best addressed through education and enforcement of the thousands of gun laws already on the books.”

Khanna said there were several problems with the Boston University study, namely, that the major data in the study came from the federal survey, which was self-reported, a notoriously weak mechanism for health-related information.

“People lie all the time,” Khanna said. “It’s not hard to envision teenagers lying to the survey taker because they think it makes them look tough.”

The fixing of the problem won’t come through laws, but through education and it has to come from within, Khanna said.

“So, it appears that if you want to fix the problem, you have to fix the environment. … Adults who role model responsible gun ownership and use will produce responsible gun owners. This meme is a central theme in all kinds of health education from exercise and nutrition to sexual health to safe driving. Why is it any less applicable here?” 

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