Factors preventing gun acquisition and carrying among incarcerated adolescent males

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001 Mar;155(3):335-41. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.155.3.335.


Context: Despite the wide availability of guns in the United States, not all delinquent adolescents own guns and not all adolescent gun owners carry them at all times. Research about the factors that prevent high-risk youth from acquiring and carrying guns is limited.

Objective: To determine, from the perspective of incarcerated adolescent males, factors that prevent acquiring or carrying guns, either on a temporary or permanent basis.

Design and setting: In-depth, semistructured interviews were conducted with randomly selected incarcerated adolescent males at a residential juvenile justice facility from January to May 1998. Transcribed interviews were examined for recurrent themes.

Participants: Forty-five incarcerated adolescent males.

Main outcome measures: Reported factors limiting gun acquisition and carrying.

Results: Seventy-one percent of the sample had either owned or carried a gun out of their home. We identified 6 recurring themes that, at least on occasion, prevented or delayed delinquent youth from acquiring or carrying guns. The most commonly cited factors were fear of being arrested and incarcerated and lack of perceived need for a gun. Other themes included not wanting to hurt oneself or others, respect for the opinions of others, inability to find a source for a desired gun, and lack of money to acquire a desired gun.

Conclusions: We identified 6 factors that limited gun acquisition and carrying among a sample of incarcerated male adolescents. Knowledge of these factors should inform intervention efforts to reduce youth gun acquisition and carrying.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • African Americans
  • Data Collection
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Fear
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maryland
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Psychology, Adolescent*