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Weapon Involvement in the Victimization of Children

NCJ Number
Date Published
Crimes Against Children Research Center
This study examined the prevalence of the use of weapons in the victimization of children and youth, focusing on weapons with a “high lethality risk” and how children’s and youth’s weapons-related victimization impacts their broader victimization and life experiences.
The study estimates that in the United States just over 17.5 million youth (ages 2-17 years old) have been exposed in their lifetimes to violence that involved a weapon, either as a witness or a victim. This translates into approximately one in four children having been exposed to violence involving a weapon. Just over 2 million of these youth (1 in 33) have been directly assaulted in incidents that involved guns and knives. Differences were found between victimizations that involved higher and lower lethality-risk weapons, as well as between any weapon involvement versus none. Youth with seven or more victimization types were likely to experience victimization with any weapon and also victimization with a highly lethal weapon compared with youth having only single victimizations. The authors advise that high-lethality-risk weapon violence has a unique contribution to current trauma symptoms, such that it should be a focus of intervention strategies. Any child who is known to have experienced victimization should be screened for exposure to weapon violence. Further work on improving gun safety practices and taking steps to reduce children’s exposure to weapon-involved violence is warranted. Data were collected as part of the Second National Survey of Children’s exposure to Violence, a nationally representative telephone survey of youth ages 2 to 17 years old and caregivers (n = 4,114). 4 tables and 25 references
Date Created: March 9, 2016