Research Watch: Weapons in Middle School

Diana Zuckerman
March 1, 1999
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Robert DuRant, Ph.D., Daniel Krowchuk, MD, Shelley Kreiter, MD and colleagues
Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 153, January 1999
Available free at www.ama.assn.org/peds or from Dr. DuRant at Dept. of Pediatrics, Brenner Center for Child and Adolescent Health,
Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC.

Despite Dr. Zimring’s findings that youth violence is not on the rise, there is some pretty scary evidence that young children are carrying weapons to school. A new study of more than 2,000 middle school students enrolled in 53 randomly selected middle schools in North Carolina found that 3 percent reported ever carrying a gun to school and 14 percent had ever carried a knife or club to school for protection.

Some of the same students carried guns or other weapons, but overall these results were just slightly lower than two studies of predominantly low-income, minority middle school students: one found 19 percent had ever carried a weapon to school, and the other found 17 percent had carried a weapon during the previous year. A study of Illinois 7-8th graders found that 15 percent had carried a weapon during the previous month.

DuRant found that students who carried weapons to school were usually boys, older, and more likely to use alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes than those who did not carry weapons. Students who carried guns were also more likely to have used cocaine, to be from ethnic minorities, and to live with one parent. Even when statistically controlling for ethnicity and sex, those who carried guns smoked and used alcohol, marijuana and cocaine more frequently. The link between daily smoking and weapons was especially strong: students who smoked every day were eight times more likely to report carrying a gun to school and seven times more likely to report carrying a knife or club to school.

This study shows that anyone working with middle school children needs to ask about weapons. The authors say students who smoke or use drugs and alcohol should be asked if they are carrying weapons to school, and if so, why. These questions could help prevent violence. The authors also suggest that drug prevention and violence prevention programs be combined and started in elementary school.

Zuckerman, Diana. "Weapons in Middle School." Research Watch review of "Weapon Carrying on School Property Among Middle School Students". Youth Today, March 1999, p. 12.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.

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