Gun Carrying

1-2. Adolescents carry guns for protection–against other adolescents carrying guns

We surveyed 7th and 10th graders in inner city schools in Boston and Milwaukee.  We found that almost a quarter of 7th grade boys had already carried a gun, illegally.  The overwhelming reason for carrying was self-protection.  While guns were easily acquired, the large majority of respondents, and even the majority of those who had already carried a gun, wanted to live in a society where it was impossible for teens to get guns.

Hemenway, David; Prothrow-Stith, Deborah, Bergstein, Jack M; Ander, Roseanna; Kennedy, Bruce.  Gun carrying among adolescents.  Law and Contemporary Problems.  1996; 59:39-53.

Bergstein, Jack M; Hemenway, David; Kennedy, Bruce; Quaday, Sher; Ander, Roseanna.  Guns in young hands: A survey of urban teenagers’ attitudes and behaviors related to handgun violence.  Journal of Trauma.  1996; 41:794-798.


3. Adolescents overestimate peer gun carrying and thus are more likely to carry themselves

We analyzed data from a random survey conducted in 2008 of over 1,700 high school students in Boston.  Over 5% of students reported carrying a gun, 9% of boys and 2% of girls.  Students substantially overestimated the percentage of their peers who carried guns and the likelihood that a respondent carried a gun was strongly associated with his perception of the level of peer gun carrying.

Hemenway, David; Vriniotis, Mary; Johnson, Rene M; Miller, Matthew; Azrael, Deborah.  Gun carrying by high school students in Boston, MA: Does overestimation of peer gun carrying matter?  Journal of Adolescence.  2011; 34:997-1003.


4. Students who are old in their class are more likely to carry guns illegally

Using data from the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior survey, we analyzed risk factors for adolescent gun carrying.  We found that a simple objective measure – whether a student is old for their grade – is an important predictor of gun carrying.  This fact may help clinicians identify high-risk students and target prevention strategies.

Hayes, D Neil; Hemenway, David.  Age-within-school-class and adolescent gun carrying.  Pediatrics electronic pages.  1999; 103:e64.


5. Social disorder increases the likelihood of adolescent gun carrying

We analyzed data from over 1,800 youth in Chicago examining risk factors for adolescent gun carrying.  We found that aspects of the neighborhood (social disorder, safety, collective efficacy) were important predictors of illegal gun carrying by youth.

Molnar, Beth; Miller, Matthew; Azrael, Deborah; Buka Steven.  Neighborhood predictors of concealed firearm carrying among children and adolescents.  Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine.  2004; 158:657-64.


6. Selling crack is associated with carrying guns

We analyzed data from interviews of over 200 young men and women at the Rhode Island Correctional Institution.  We found that selling crack was highly associated with gun carrying; using hard drugs was not.  Findings provide further evidence of a crack-gun connection.

Kacanek, Deborah; Hemenway, David.  Gun carrying and drug selling among youth incarcerated men and women.  Journal of Urban Health.  2006; 83:266-74.


7. Increased gun carrying reduces community feeling of safety

This paper uses data from two national random-digit-dial surveys to examine public attitudes about gun carrying. By a margin of 5 to 1, Americans feel less safe rather than safer as more people in their community begin to carry guns.  By margins of at least 9 to 1, Americans do not believe that regular citizens should be allowed to bring their guns into restaurants, college campuses, sports stadium, bars, hospitals or government buildings.

Hemenway, David; Azrael, Deborah; Miller, Matthew.  U.S. national attitudes concerning gun carrying.  Injury Prevention.  2001; 7:282-285.


8. Without police discretion, many dangerous people obtain carry licenses

This is the first study to examine when, in may-issue states, the police use discretion to refuse to issue a permit.  Our survey of police chiefs in Massachusetts found that chiefs issued few discretionary denials – median 2 per year.  Common reasons for denial were providing false information, a history of assault (e.g., IPV), a history of drug or alcohol abuse, or mental-health issues.  Allowing such individuals to legally carry firearms will not enhance public safety.

This article is the first to provide evidence about police discretion concerning gun-carrying licensing.  Studies such as this one may prove critical in maintaining police discretion in states like Massachusetts and in helping to swing the pendulum back in states that deny police the ability to prevent violent individuals from obtaining firearm licenses.  Passing a federal background check may not always be enough to ensure that an individual does not pose a threat of violence to others or to themselves.  Local police chiefs typically know more about the people in their community than does a national computer.

Hemenway D, Hicks JG.  “May issue” gun carrying laws and police discretion: Some evidence from Massachusetts.  Journal of Public Health Policy.  2015; 36:324-34.


9. More guns and weak gun laws lead to more illegal youth gun carrying

Using data on high school students from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey for years 2007, 2009, and 2011, youth were more likely to carry guns in states with weak gun laws and many guns.  Across states, strong gun laws are associated with a lower likelihood of youth gun carrying.

This article provides evidence on another of the society-level costs of weak gun laws and high levels of household gun ownership.

Xuan Z, Hemenway D.  State gun law environment and youth gun carrying in the United States.  JAMA Pediatrics.  2015; 11:1-9.