Preventing Youth Weapons Use
September 2006 article
“Eight children or teens are killed by firearms [in the United States]” every day (Children’s Defense Fund), whether through violence or unintentional injury.
Moreover, gun violence has changed the face of conflict in schools. Although the number of homicides in schools is relatively small, there are teens who lack the skills to prevent anger, have no trusted adult to turn to, and have access to firearms. This mix of problems can have fatal consequences. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24, from 2002-2003, was homicide.
There are steps parents and youth can take to help stop youth violence and weapons use.
- Recognize that keeping firearms in your home may put you at legal risk as well as exposing you and your family to physical risk. In many states, parents can be held liable for their children’s actions, including the inappropriate use of firearms. If you do choose to keep firearms at home, ensure that they are securely locked, that that ammunition is locked and stored separately, and that children know weapons are never to be touched without your express permission and supervision.
- Take an active role in your children’s schools. Talk regularly with teachers and staff. Volunteer in the classroom or library, or in after-school activities. Work with parent-teacher-student organizations.
- Act as role models. Settle your own conflicts peaceably and manage anger without violence.
- Listen and talk with your children regularly. Find out what they’re thinking on all kinds of topics. Create an opportunity for two-way conversations, which may mean foregoing judgments or pronouncements. This kind of communication should be a daily habit, not a reaction to a crisis.
- Set clear limits of behaviors in advance. Discuss punishments and rewards in advance as well. Disciplining with framework and consistency helps teach self-discipline, a skill your children can use for the rest of their lives.
- Refuse to bring a weapon to school, refuse to carry a weapon for another student, and refuse to keep silent about those who carry weapons.
- Report any crime immediately to school authorities or the police.
- Report suspicious or worrisome behavior or talk by other students to a teacher or counselor. You may save someone’s life.
- Learn how to manage your own anger effectively. Find out ways to settles arguments by talking it out, working it out, or walking away rather than fighting.
- Help others settle disputes peaceably. Start or join a peer mediation program, in which trained teens help peers find ways to settle arguments without fists or weapons.
For more information about preventing youth weapons use, check out: