U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

May Piece Be with You: A Typological Examination of the Fear and Victimization Hypothesis of Adolescent Weapon Carrying

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 26 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2009 Pages: 348-376
Date Published
June 2009
29 pages

This study examined adolescent weapon carrying and the "fear of victimization hypothesis."


Results show that offenders were more likely to report weapon carrying than non-offenders, consistent with the idea that guns serve a functional purpose in committing crimes and serve to enhance the criminal identity of the carrier. Among youth who have been involved in crime as both a victim and offender, weapon carrying is positively related to the perceived risk of victimization. A positive relationship between the perceived risk of victimization and weapon carrying is consistent with the logic inherent in the fear and victimization hypothesis, yet fear is likely not the driving force. Rather than being driven by an emotive reaction such as fear, weapon carrying is likely the result of a more cognitive recognition of the need for protection. Also illustrated is the positive relationship between youth gang membership, criminal involvement, and weapon carrying. Gang members were more likely to report carrying hidden weapons for protection than their non-gang peers, regardless of their involvement in criminal activity. Gang members not involved in criminal activity exhibited the highest levels of fear of victimization, but weapon carrying was uncommon for this group. Data were collected from 1,113 students from 15 schools in 9 cities across the United States in the 2004-2005 school year. Tables, figures, and references

Date Published: June 1, 2009