Gun Safety

New Shocking CDC Study Reveals How Often Teens Carry Guns

The study shows that gun carrying was more likely among youth who have experienced violence, suicidal thoughts, or substance abuse — especially boys.

Originally Published: 
Three teens look at a gun near a railroad track. The CDC just released a new study showing how often...
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The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), a weekly digest sent out by the organization to release critical public health information, just revealed that gun carrying is much more commonly reported among youth than many parents might think.

The organization looked at data from the 2017 and 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which surveyed 21,812 students in grades 9-12. They found that 1 in 15 boys and 1 in 50 girls reported carrying a gun for non-recreational purposes, such as hunting or sport, within the past 12 months.

Recreational purposes include activities like hunting or sports like target shooting.

Gun carrying was more common in youth who had experienced trauma, namely violence, suicidal thoughts/attempts, substance abuse, or a combination of said traumas. For example, more than one in four males (25.9%) and one in nine females (11.2%) who had been previously threatened or injured with a weapon on school property reported carrying a gun in the past 12 months. Comparatively, only 5.2% of males and 1.3% of females who did not experience this type of violence reported carrying a gun.

This data set does not include gun carrying on school property, which, given that the U.S. is the only country with a mass shooting crisis, adds even more gravity to the shocking amount of high schoolers who have reported carrying a gun.


The CDC also broke down gun carrying by race and sex, with gun carrying being “significantly more prevalent among males (6.8%) than among females (1.9%). Among males, gun carrying was most common among non-Hispanic Black (Black) students (10.6%), followed by Hispanic (7.2%) and non-Hispanic White (White) (6.1%) students. Among females, gun carrying was more common among Hispanic (3.5%) than among Black (2.0%) and White students (1.1%).”

The organization also noted that it is important to consider social structures while looking at these numbers broken down: “Social and structural conditions (e.g., concentrated poverty, high crime rates, and economic or residential instability) are associated with youth violence and contribute to inequities in violence among racial and ethnic minority populations (3). Further, youths who have experienced violence, discrimination, or racism might feel an increased need for protection, might be unwilling or unable to rely on law enforcement, and might carry a gun for self-protection.”

According to the CDC, suicide and homicide are the second and third-leading causes of death among youths 14-17. Most youth homicides are the result of a firearm injury, and firearms are the most common method of youth suicide.

All of these data have the CDC emphasizing the importance of comprehensive violence prevention approaches. The organization has free resources available for families, educators, and pediatricians, the last of whom parents trust the most when it comes to gun safety advice.

For any parents who have been putting off talking about gun safety with their kids, now might be a good time to do some homework and then have the talk.

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