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Original Investigation
November 2015

State Gun Law Environment and Youth Gun Carrying in the United States

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts

Copyright 2015 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(11):1024-1031. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.2116

Importance  Gun violence and injuries pose a substantial threat to children and youth in the United States. Existing evidence points to the need for interventions and policies for keeping guns out of the hands of children and youth.

Objectives  (1) To examine the association between state gun law environment and youth gun carrying in the United States, and (2) to determine whether adult gun ownership mediates this association.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This was a repeated cross-sectional observational study design with 3 years of data on youth gun carrying from US states. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey comprises data of representative samples of students in grades 9 to 12 from biennial years of 2007, 2009, and 2011. We hypothesized that states with more restrictive gun laws have lower rates of youth gun carrying, and this association is mediated by adult gun ownership.

Exposures  State gun law environment as measured by state gun law score.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Youth gun carrying was defined as having carried a gun on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.

Results  In the fully adjusted model, a 10-point increase in the state gun law score, which represented a more restrictive gun law environment, was associated with a 9% decrease in the odds of youth gun carrying (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 0.91 [95% CI, 0.86-0.96]). Adult gun ownership mediated the association between state gun law score and youth gun carrying (AOR, 0.94 [ 95% CI, 0.86-1.01], with 29% attenuation of the regression coefficient from −0.09 to −0.07 based on bootstrap resampling).

Conclusions and Relevance  More restrictive overall gun control policies are associated with a reduced likelihood of youth gun carrying. These findings are relevant to gun policy debates about the critical importance of strengthening overall gun law environment to prevent youth gun carrying.