Young people account for almost two thirds of gun-related violent offenses in New York, according to state data obtained by amNewYork. Some 62.8 percent of New Yorkers arrested between 2009 and 2013 for murder and attempted murder charges with an underlying firearm charge were between the age of 13 and 25.
The data reveals how access to firearms by young individuals can escalate what would otherwise be a fist fight into a deadly altercation for a population whose brains are still developing. “If you add in guns what might have been a fight can turn into a homicide very quickly. And kids have access,” St. John’s University sociology professor Judith Ryder told amNewYork. “They are lacking in impulse control.”
New York saw similar rates of gun-related arrests among youths over the past several years. Last year, the rate among the same age group was 59 percent and in 2012 it reached a high of 69 percent. Arrests don’t signal convictions. And this statistic could in part reflect disproportionate rates of young arrests overall. But the data comports with other national statistics on youth and violent firearm crime.
The median age for murder in 2010 was 26, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics figures. And in 2011, 70 percent of murders committed by those aged 12 to 24 involved a firearm. Individuals between the ages of 10 and 29 also made up 65 percent of all national arrests for weapons offenses in 2012, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data.
This young skew tracks the high proportion of young people who are the victims of gun violence. Fifty-four percent of Americans murdered by guns in 2010 were under age 30. In fact, an American under the age of 25 dies by gunfire every 70 minutes. And guns are poised to surpass car accidents as the leading cause of death among young people. As a February Center for American Progress report notes, “Far too often, a gun not only takes the life of one young American but also contributes to ruining the life of another young person who pulls the trigger.” In striking down the harshest sentence of life without parole for some juvenile crimes, the U.S. Supreme Court reasoned that a juvenile’s character is not as “well formed,” meaning both that they are prone to recklessness, and that their traits are significantly more likely to change over time. Nonetheless, those charged in homicide crimes are likely to spend years if not their life in prison.
Against this backdrop, the National Rifle Association has recently made a push to invalidate bans on gun sales and permits to those under age 21. The NRA has argued that the restriction imposes an unconstitutional burden on the Second Amendment. But one of the most conservative federal appeals courts in the country turned back one of those challenges last year, and the U.S. Supreme Court has since declined to review the issue.