Youth in detention and handguns

J Adolesc Health. 1993 Jul;14(5):350-5. doi: 10.1016/s1054-139x(08)80006-7.


The objective of this work was to describe the frequency and correlates of handgun ownership and firearm injury experiences among youth in a detention facility. A convenience sample of 89 males detained in the King County Youth Services Center, a short-term holding facility, voluntarily completed an anonymous survey. Results showed that 59% of the youth reported owning a handgun. Firearm experiences included carrying a gun to school (46%); firing at another person (68% of handgun owners); firearm injury to self (27%); death of a close friend or family member to firearm homicide or suicide (35%). Personal safety far exceeded recreational use of guns as motivation for self-arming (52% versus 4%). Handgun ownership was more common among youth who reported problem behaviors. Adjusting for age and controlling for covariation of the problem behaviors, gang membership [odds ratio (OR) 6.7; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.7-26.1], committing assault and battery (OR 7.7; 95% CI 2.2-26.8) and selling drugs (OR 3.6; 95% CI 0.99-13.4) were associated with handgun ownership. Our conclusion was that firearm experiences for youth in detention pose health risks equal to or far exceeding other high-risk behaviors in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Juvenile Delinquency / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Environment
  • Washington / epidemiology
  • Wounds, Gunshot / epidemiology*