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Risky Behavior, Juveniles, Guns, and Unintentional Firearms Fatalities

NCJ Number
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice: An Interdisciplinary Journal Volume: 2 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2004 Pages: 342-358
Rick Ruddell; G. Larry Mays
Date Published
October 2004
17 pages
This study examined whether risk taking behavior is associated with unintentional firearm fatalities among juvenile populations.
During the past three decades, there has been a marked decline in the number of unintentional firearm fatalities. Despite this decrease, the United States has comparatively high rates of these types of deaths. The authors contend that previous research hints that engaging in risky behaviors may be associated with unintentional firearm deaths. The current study analyzed State-level data drawn from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 2000 U.S. Census, and the 2000 Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), in order to evaluate whether engagement in risky behaviors or the enactment of different types of legislation influenced the rates of unintentional firearm death among adolescents younger than 17 years of age. Control variables included various indicators of socioeconomic status, social disorganization, and firearm density. Results of ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models revealed that unintentional firearm fatalities among juveniles, as well as the general population, were significantly and consistently associated with various State-level indicators of risky behavior. Moreover, while there appeared to be a decline in unintentional firearm deaths as a result of child access prevention laws, this decline occurred in the general population and was not associated with a decline in accidental juvenile firearm deaths. These findings suggest that the cause of unintentional firearm fatalities may not be found within the traditionally examined demographic factors, but within other factors indicative of risk taking behaviors, such as high rates of smoking and alcohol use. Tables, notes, appendix