Starting Young: Addressing Gun Violence by Juveniles Critical to Criminal Justice Reform
- Juvenile gun violence is on the rise as schools and national leaders are on the search for solutions.
- More than 2 million young people under 18 are arrested annually, and in 2019, juvenile offenders committed 860 murders in the U.S., which accounts for 7% of known murder offenses.
- Funding community-based initiatives that empower members of historically marginalized communities, increased funding for education and job training programs minimize the risk of gun violence.
In 2020, the U.S. experienced a radical shift in criminal justice reform with unprecedented bipartisan support pushing to reimagine policing after the high-profile deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others at the hands of law enforcement officers. While police reforms are necessary, other tantamount needs are stimulating our criminal justice system that can no longer be ignored.
At the heart of the situation, gun violence is a deadly problem in our country, causing more than 43,000 deaths in 2020. Of those deaths, 19,390 are attributed to murder, suicide, or some type of accident. Further, gun-related deaths are increasing in major cities across America, with some areas seeing a 30% increase in 2020 when compared to 2019.
What’s causing this rapid increase? Fear and anxiety over contracting COVID-19, financial difficulty from job loss, and pandemic-induced depression have all been viewed as factors. However, more pressing elements are under consideration to reveal the root causes.
Juvenile gun violence is on the rise in the U.S. Research has found that more than 2 million young people under 18 are arrested annually, and in 2019, juvenile offenders committed 860 murders in the U.S., which accounts for 7% of known murder offenses.
These startling, but not so surprising, statistics serve as the focal point of the Center for Justice Research’s reason for participating in a four-city study to understand the motivating factors behind youth and young adult gun possession. The cities included Jackson, Mississippi, Wilmington, Delaware, Houston, Texas, and Baltimore, Maryland.
School systems are already taking action to get juvenile gun violence under control. In the wake of the murders of Floyd and Taylor, schools across the nation either cut or reconsidered their relationships with local police departments and, in some cases, school resource officers.
In an effort to correct course, schools are hiring psychologists and nurses to provide counseling and advice to students. Additionally, in states like Maryland and Northern California, students are advocating for the reallocation of school police funds to mental health services.
The U.S. has a polarized history when it comes to federal gun reform policy. But now, the need for gun reform has never been more urgent. In 2020, there were over 600 mass shootings compared to 417 in 2019. That same devastation is taking hold in 2021, with 147 mass shootings as of April 16. The majority of Americans agree that gun policies should be stricter.
The Biden-Harris Administration has published actions to take place in the near term to curtail the rise in gun violence, one step being a $5 billion investment in community violence prevention programs. .
Outside of supporting community-based initiatives that empower members of historically marginalized communities, increased funding for education and job training programs minimize the risk of gun violence.
Nationally, for every student enrolled, the average nonwhite school district receives $2,226 less than a white school district. Mayors and council members in cities with significant Black populations spend far more on police budgets than they invest in their local schools.
Reimagining American police and how they’re funded can greatly increase resources for predominately Black school districts, keeping youth in classrooms and away from crime.
Calls to reform our prison systems and police accountability continue to grow. Still, we must not lose focus on understanding, addressing, and preventing the systems in place today that accelerate gun violence. The research is clear: juveniles are getting left behind from lacking gun reform policies, increasing police presence, and defunding schools, keeping Black children, other minority youth, and the economically disadvantaged in cycles of violence.
Creating a safer America begins with curbing gun violence, and curbing gun violence starts at the beginning – protecting our youth.