High-risk youth are so desensitized that they approve of gun use and engaging in retaliatory violence, according to a new study that sheds light on a growing culture of aggressive youth behavior.
The research, published Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics and reported by CBS News
, looked at firearm possession by youth who were hospitalized in emergency rooms for assault. It was conducted by the University of Michigan Injury Center in Flint, Mich. Preliminary FBI data found Flint to be the most violent large city in the country, according to 2012 data
Among 689 youth who were injured in the assaults and surveyed, nearly one quarter – 23 percent – said they had owned firearms in the past six months. Of those gun owners, just 17 percent obtained their weapons legally, the study found.
Scarier still, 22 percent of the youth owned automatic or semiautomatic weapons and nearly a third – 37 percent – said they kept their firearms for protection.
The youth surveyed were between 14 and 24 years old.
The survey results were accompanied in the journal by an editorial written by Dr. Robert Sege, the director of the division of family and child advocacy in the department of pediatrics at Boston Medical Center. He called for further research and action from government to stem youth gun violence.
"The continued high incidence of firearms deaths in the U.S. is a national disgrace," Sege wrote. "Despite declining rates over the past decade, firearm injuries remain the second leading cause of death for young Americans, trailing only motor vehicle crashes."
The study also found that a majority of youth surveyed agreed "revenge was a good thing." They also approved of the statement that it was "OK to hurt people if they hurt you first."
"The high rates of substance use, fighting and attitudes favoring retaliation, combined with the fact that so many of these youth had firearms, increases their risk for future firearm violence, as well as injury or death," said Dr. Patrick Carter of the University of Michigan Medical School in an interview with Psych Central
"But, our findings also provide an opportunity for public health interventions that could decrease their future firearm violence risk."
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, guns are responsible for twice as many youth deaths than cancer, five times as many deaths as heart disease and 15 times as many deaths than infection.
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