Guns

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  • Topic: Crime, Gun politics, Gun violence in the United States
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Journal of Contemporary Criminal
Justice
http://ccj.sagepub.com/

Peers and Gun Use Among Urban Adolescent Males : An Examination of Social Embeddedness
Deanna L. Wilkinson, Marquette S. McBryde, Brice Williams, Shelly Bloom and Kerryn Bell
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 2009 25: 20
DOI: 10.1177/1043986208328449
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http://ccj.sagepub.com/content/25/1/20

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Peers and Gun Use Among
Urban Adolescent Males

Journal of Contemporary
Criminal Justice
Volume 25 Number 1
February 2009 20-44
© 2009 Sage Publications
10.1177/1043986208328449
http://ccj.sagepub.com
hosted at
http://online.sagepub.com

An Examination of
Social Embeddedness
Deanna L. Wilkinson
Marquette S. McBryde
Brice Williams
Shelly Bloom
Kerryn Bell
The Ohio State University, Columbus

Youth gun violence is most often a group phenomenon yet most empirical examinations ignore this fact. Using interview data with 416 violent male offenders from two disadvantaged New York City neighborhoods, this paper examines the roles that the peer contexts play in explaining the nuanced patterns of respondent gun-related behaviors. We hypothesize that respondents who are comparatively more embedded in networks of peers who carry and use guns will also report greater involvement in serious gun violence. We found that guns were equated with self-protection and the most prevalent reason given for possession and carrying behaviors of peers. Belonging to a group of associates was also perceived to have protective value. Guns and armed peers played a role in heightened risk for lethal conflict. Peers are involved as co-offenders in the majority of gun events reported. We discuss the implications of our findings for violence intervention policy and future research.

Keywords: guns; cooffending; group processes; gun crime; third party roles; selfprotection; violence

un violence has been part of the collective psyche of Americans for the past several decades with the impact being felt most severely among African American, urban youth. Homicide has been the leading cause of death for African Americans aged 15 to 24 since 1981 and either the leading or second leading cause of death for African Americans aged 25 to 34 from 1981 to 2005 (CDC Wonder, 2006). Whether in urban centers or more recently in the nation’s rural heartlands, guns have been central to the character of youth violence for nearly 30 years (Wilkinson & Fagan,

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Wilkinson et al. / Peers and Gun Use Among Urban Adolescent Males 21

2001; Zimring, 1999). Guns have played a significant role in shaping the developmental trajectories and behaviors of many inner-city youths, and through the extended reach of media reports, youth in suburban and rural areas have also grown up affected by the images of gun violence. Although violence has been a recurrent theme for decades in contributing to urban delinquency, youth gun violence has become more prevalent and more concentrated spatially and socially during the eighties and nineties (Cook & Laub, 1998; Fagan & Wilkinson, 1998a). In this essay, we summarize recent studies on the trends in youth violence specifically related to firearms violence. Next, we present empirical findings on the gunrelated behaviors among the peers of violent male youthful offenders. Third, we explore the...
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