Gun crimes involving the youth were alarmingly increasing with the passing of time. Although the U.S. government said that based from their studies most of these crimes involving youth offenders are decreasing, there were still accountable events wherein youth offenders have become bolder, stylish, and influential in spreading terror and other crimes. This is because the U.S. government unlike any other industrialized countries is more relaxed and playing ignorant on illegal gun trading. Young offenders can now have different access to different firearms and this is continuously alarming. We cannot take chances and need to act on pursuing more rational and comprehensive laws to reduce grave crimes involving young offenders particularly with those ages 18-20 because statistics say that they are the most vulnerable groups to be influenced by wrong sources.
Gun Crimes: Between Ages 18 – 20
Crime watch reports in the U.S. stated that there is a continuing decline of crime from the previous years and these reports usually comes from the government bureaus. The FBI affirmed that from September 1996, the crime rate for every 100,000 persons in the United States dropped by two percent. Violent crime also dropped by four percent which specifically consists of murder, rape and robbery.
But if we have to look closely at these reports, alarmingly the most number of victims from these crimes were juveniles and the perpetrators were also juveniles. The U.S. known to have the most heavily armed citizens in the world have more loose firearms than any other countries and unfortunately these guns are under the possessions of young people and other individuals. According to the statistics, there is an estimated 223 million guns being kept by the public.
This research was made in order to discuss the problem for juvenile crimes committed by those ages 18-20. The significance of this study is also to know more about the different age bracket wherein young people are most vulnerable for crimes and possessions of deadly weapon particularly guns. This case is becoming a national issue because most of those affected and victims are our children, the adolescents and the future generation. Having to see young offenders commit murder, homicide and other grave crimes using guns should be of utmost concern by the government because it is becoming obvious that government laws are becoming so relaxed and obtaining a gun seems to be like buying a piece of toy or a gadget. Different sources were used in this research to come up with a more comprehensive and detailed data regarding juvenile crimes.
Around 135,000 children carry firearms in school everyday and every year there were about 274,000 guns being stolen from different sources as reported by the FBI. Their report also added that most of those arrested and imprisoned belong to the minorities (blacks and Hispanics) which comprise more than half of the prisoners in state prisons. (Association, 2007).
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was made into law to prohibit dealers of firearms to sell to any person below the age of 21. Although each state has different laws involving regulations on the type of gun and means of use, the Youth Handgun Safety Act of 1994 completely prohibited the transfer of handgun possession to anyone who is below 18 years of age. License sellers are allowed to sell shotgun and rifles only to those who are 18 and older. For those non-license sellers there are no existing federal age restriction for possessions for long guns as long as money is involved. In 1999, the Youth Gun Crime Enforcement Act of 1999 raised the age possession of handguns to a minimum age of 18 to 21.
The data involving ages and crime according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports of 1997 conclude that the usual age of those arrested for murder was 18 which make it 8 percent of all arrests for murder. Then followed by the age of 19 which also makes up for 8 percent out of the total murder cases. Not surprisingly, those 20 years of age accounts for 7 percent. In totality, those who are 18 to 20 years of age covers 22 percent for all murder cases using handguns.
Among those convicted all have shown to have the potential to use firearms than those adults 21 years old and over because 74 percent of homicides were executed by this age bracket (18-21) which involved the use of firearms.
This is one of the challenges that law enforcement officers are having. Juvenile offenders can buy or obtain firearms illegally from unregulated dealers and illegal sellers working as underground syndicates. Gun violence among the youths usually erupted when firearms are uncontrollably provided to persons by young gang members, stolen from parents, and from illicit transactions. Although different department such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the law enforcement, Department of Justice and other schools are making effort to stop youth crimes, young offenders are still defying and beating the odds as we regularly see on news today.
Reportedly there were two main sources of illegal guns. These are older guns that were stolen by criminals and juveniles and the new guns that were trafficked across borders in bulk. The trafficking of all kinds of firearms could also be interstate or intrastate and these include new firearms, used firearms and used stolen firearms (Justice, 1999).
If there are uncontrollable supplies of guns and most of them landed in the hands of the young adults, then it is likely that most of their victims would be in the same age bracket too. In December 15, 3003, the Juvenile Justice Digest published that around 38 percent of young victims of violence have an age range of 18 to 20. An estimated ratio of four for every 10 victims for weapon violence includes those ages 15 to 24 and the ages 18-20 are the most vulnerable.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that there is an overall decline in violent crime during the nine-year period which ended in 2001 but eventually the youth continued to be enjoying their liberty in possessing guns of all kinds and continued to be get involved in weapon violence.
According to reviews of violent crime and the use of weapon from 1993 to 2001, the bureau established that black and Latinos were significantly the most potential victims. Specifically, blacks are twice more likely to be victims of violence than whites and twice and a half again more likely for Latinos or Hispanics (Digest, 2003).
Prosecuting convicted youths is also a great issue that must be reviewed by the U.S. justice system. Youth offenders are prosecuted as adults and subjected to adult prison terms and jails. From among the 42 U.S. states, all of them are adopting the sentence of life without parole for those involved in grave crimes. There were only four states who have excluded juveniles below the age of 18 to be tried in court as an adult and suffer life sentence. These were the state of New York, Oregon, Kentucky and the District of Colombia
Data showed that among the convicted 1,291 child offenders, six of them were ages 13 or younger during their conviction while the average age was 16. Sixteen percent were convicted when they were only 15 or even younger. Using this proportion to the total number of juvenile offenders serving life without parole, the result was 354 children nationwide facing lifetime imprisonment convicted before their 16th birthday (International, 2005).
To give an example of cases for guns arrest, two teenagers in San Diego County were accused of gunning down a police officer last December 2006 and their records revealed that the two boys are only 16 and 17 at the time they were tried in court. The issue in court was how and where the suspects obtained the firearm they allegedly used in the crime. Tracking the gun used by a juvenile is always hard according to the law enforcers. They make lies and invented stories when they get caught up with gun possession.
These loose firearms are stolen from somebody, from somebody’s house or vehicles according to Oceanside Police Department, detective Lt. Shawn Murray. Sometimes they are stolen from teen’s home or from parked vehicle or from those people they know. Kids get caught intruding homes said one of their targets are guns usually hidden in drawers and under bed cushions. Gang members use drugs or cash to buy firearms and sometimes borrow from one of their members. Sadly, there were no significant tallies or statistics from any agency that monitor juvenile criminal activity related to the use of firearms.
Teens with guns are usually ages 14 to 18 years and they use guns to rob small establishments, to assault, to intimidate or threaten any person they want. Young girls who are gang members are only charged with illegal possession of firearms when get caught up with guns. This is because according to them they only hide it for safety or were tasked to deliver it to somebody.
The internal problem with gangsters is using or exploiting children to carry or hide weapons for the older members. Gang members are usually young but armed and responsible for number of armed robberies (Moreland, 2007) .
On the part of the legal system, the juvenile justice system is based on the law enforcement’s verdict to determine if the youth offender will go further into the justice system or diverted to other offenses. Some agencies connected with law enforcement are tracking the volume and individuality of crimes reported and utilizes this information in monitoring the levels of crime on each community and society. Not every crime is being reported to the police or to law enforcers, however and reported cases involving juvenile crimes are usually unsolved. Usually the victim only remembers the young offenders’ physical characteristics and reported this to the law enforcers. The law enforcers are recording every detail of the report in order to understand the process of juvenile offending and crimes (Programs, 2006).
In the United States, it is not graphically surprising to see the dead and the dying being hauled from schools. This is because a frustrated young man has opened fire on his teacher, and his fellow students using his semi-automatic firearm and shooting people at point blank. Having to see bodies falling around him is one sure way of venting his frustrations to the world. And finally, he shoots himself in the head. This is just one graphic example of how the young generation has been obsessed with vengeance and uses the power of the gun to destroy innocent people. Gang wars are here to stay because they all have the luxury in getting things they wanted. From cars and drugs to the most powerful firearms their money can buy. To them gun is prestige, power and authority.
Under the US federal law, criminal background checks are required by licensed firearm dealers before gun is purchased. But it appeared that the number of confiscated guns versus guns kept with license was not subsequently tallying in terms of numbers. This only means that out of the five guns acquired in America, two did not come from license gun seller and the owner has not been background checked.
These unrecorded guns were bought at gun shows, online transaction, and classified ads or passed on to individuals illegally. Accordingly, there are 2,000 to 5,000 gun shows held every year and with a minimum requirement or fake identifications at hand, anybody can have the latest gun model he wanted. Young people are meant to learn everything in school but that does not include the art of killing and target shooting. But has our government been very strict to deter sick individuals from killing and destroying innocent law-abiding citizens. Indeed, many will agree that the young are not to blame for these drawbacks. It’s those people who are running and controlling the society. From younger age, our children have been purged with violence and access to every form of inconsistencies some of them have developed sedated minds. Unless the government does not do drastic and strict prohibitions on gun laws there would be more victims from those young people enjoying pulling the trigger.
Table 1. Homicide Offenders by Type of Weapon and Age Group
Type of Weapons
Percent 17 and Under
Percent 21 and Over
Total # of Homicide Offenders
Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports, Supplemental Homicide Reports, 1997, special tabulation prepared by Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
Table 2. Non-Lethal Crimes of Violence by Type of Weapon and Offender Age Group
Age of Offender
Type of Weapon
Percent 17 and Under
Percent 21 and Over
Total # of Victimizations
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 1992-1997, special tabulation.
Association, D. C. B. (2007). The American Criminal Justice System [Electronic Version]. Retrieved October 15, 2007 from http://www.dcba.org/public/crimjustice.htm.
Digest, J. J. (2003, October 14, 2007). 38% Of Weapon Violence Victims Are Youth; Ages 18-20 Are Most Vulnerable. Juvenile Justice Digest Magazine. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3985/is_200312/ai_n9337580.
International, A. (2005). The Rest Of Their Lives: Life Without Parole For Child Offenders In The United States [Electronic Version]. Retrieved October 15, 2007 from http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engamr511622005.
Justice, T. D. O. T. a. T. D. O. (1999). Gun Crime In The Age Group 18 – 20 [Electronic Version]. Retrieved October 15, 2007 from http://www.ustreas.gov/press/releases/reports/report.pdf.
Moreland, J. (2007). Teens Buy, Borrow And Steal To Get Guns. The Californian (Online News Subscription). Retrived on Oct. 15, 2007. http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/02/12/news/top_stories/21107110029.txt.
Programs, U. S. D. O. J.-O. o. J. (2006). Law Enforcement and Juvenile Crime [Electronic Version]. Retrieved October 15, 2007 from http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/nr2006/html/chp5.html#.