Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 79, Issue 1, pp 60–69 | Cite as

How delinquent youths acquire guns: Initial versus most recent gun acquisitions

  • Daniel W. Webster
  • Lorraine H. Freed
  • Shannon Frattaroli
  • Modena H. Wilson
Special Feature: Firearms and Violence



Access to firearms among delinquent youths poses significant risks to community safety. The purpose of the study was to describe how a group of criminally involved youths obtained guns.


Youths were randomly selected from a juvenile justice facility to participate in a semistructured, anonymous interview. Transcripts were coded and analyzed with the aid of textual analysis software.


Of the 45 participants, 30 had acquired at least 1 gun prior to their most recent incarceration, and 22 had acquired multiple guns. About half of the first gun acquisitions were gifts or finds. The first guns youths acquired were usually obtained from friends or family. The most recent acquisitions were often new, high-calbier guns, and they came from acquaintances or drug addicts. New guns often came from igh-volume traffickers. Gun acquisitions from strangers or through “straw purchases” were rare. Though few obrtained guns directly throug theft, some youths believed their supplier bad stolen guns. Youths rarely left their community to obtain a gun.


Guns were readily available to this sample of criminally involved youths through their social networks. Efforts to curtail high-volume, illegal gun traffickers and to recover discarded guns from areas in which illicit drug sales take place could potentially reduce gun availability to high-risk youth.


Drug Addict Delinquent Youth Recent Acquisition Incarcerate Youth Recent Incarceration 


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel W. Webster
    • 1
  • Lorraine H. Freed
    • 2
  • Shannon Frattaroli
    • 1
  • Modena H. Wilson
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Gun Policy and ResearchJohns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Pulic HealthBaltimore
  2. 2.Department of PediatricsJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimore

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