Bullet The rise in murders of juveniles between 1984 and 1993 was all firearm related, as was the subsequent decline

The increase in juvenile homicides is tied to firearm use by nonfamily offenders

A study of the 65% increase in juvenile homicides in the 7-year period from 1987 to 1993 shows that increases did not occur proportionately in all types of homicides. Over this period, homicides by family members held constant, while homicides by acquaintances increased substantially. The increase was disproportionate for black victims, with the growth in the number of black victims twice that of white victims. Most significantly, nearly all of the growth in juvenile homicides was in the number of older juveniles killed with firearms.

Figure 1

The decline in juvenile homicides between 1993 and 1997 brought the number to a level just 20% above that of 1987 (the last year in which juvenile homicides were within their historic range). Both the decline from 1993 to 1997 and the growth from 1987 to 1993 involved substantial changes in the number of murders by acquaintances and in the number of murders of older youth and black youth. The proportion of homicides committed with a firearm, which had increased dramatically between 1987 and 1993, however, did not decline between 1993 and 1997. Therefore, the major legacy of the growth in juvenile homicides from 1987 through 1993 is that it increased the proportion of juveniles killed by firearms.

Figure 2

Since 1980, 1 in 4 murders of juveniles involved a juvenile offender

Nearly 38,000 juveniles were murdered between 1980 and 1997. A juvenile offender was involved in 26% of these crimes when an offender was identified. In murders of juveniles by juveniles, about 1 of every 6 also involved an adult offender. Between 1980 and 1997, the victim and the offender were the same race in 91% of murders of juveniles by juveniles.

The proportion of juvenile murders that involved a juvenile offender increased from 21% in 1980 to 33% in 1994—the peak year for all murders by juveniles. In 1980, an estimated 400 juveniles were killed by other juveniles, growing to nearly 900 in 1994; by 1997, this figure had fallen to about 500, or about 1 of every 4 juveniles murdered that year.

Figure 3

When juveniles kill juveniles, the victims are generally acquaintances killed with a firearm

Of juveniles killed by other juveniles between 1980 and 1997, 13% were under age 6. In nearly half of these murders (47%), the juvenile offender was the parent of the victim. In another 18%, the juvenile offender was another family member. Firearms were rarely used when the victim was under age 6 (10%).

Of juveniles killed by other juveniles, 63% were age 15 or older. Fewer than 5% of these older juvenile victims were killed by family members; 76% were killed by acquaintances and 19% were killed by strangers. Between 1980 and 1997, 77% of these older juveniles were killed with a firearm.

Figure 4

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1999 National Report Series, Juvenile Justice Bulletin:Kids and Guns March 2000