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Firearms, Violence, and Youth in California, Illinois, Louisiana, and New Jersey, 1991 (ICPSR 6484)

Published: Nov 4, 2005 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
Joseph F. Sheley, Tulane University, Department of Sociology; James D. Wright, Tulane University, Department of Sociology; M. Dwayne Smith, Tulane University, Department of Sociology

https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR06484.v1

Version V1

Violence committed by and against juveniles was the focus of this study. Two groups were examined: incarcerated (criminally active) juveniles and students in inner-city high schools, since these youths are popularly considered to engage in and experience violence (especially gun-related violence), to belong to urban street gangs, and to participate in the drug trafficking thought to lead to excessive gun violence. Self-administered questionnaires were completed by 835 male inmates in six correctional facilities and 1,663 male and female students from ten inner-city high schools in California, Illinois, Louisiana, and New Jersey. Data collection took place during January through April of 1991. To maximize response rates, inducements of five dollars were offered to the inmates, Spanish-language versions of the questionnaire were provided to inmates who preferred them, and personal interviews were conducted with inmates whose reading skills were less than sufficient to complete the questionnaire on their own. In four schools, principals permitted the inducements to be offered to students to participate in the study. As with the inmate survey, a Spanish-language version of the questionnaire was provided to students who preferred it. The questionnaires covered roughly the same core topics for both inmates and students. Items included questions on sociodemographic characteristics, school experiences, gun ownership, gun use for several types of firearms, gun acquisition patterns, gun-carrying habits, use of other weapons, gang membership and gang activities, self-reported criminal histories, victimization patterns, drug use, alcohol use, and attitudes concerning guns, crime, and violence. In both questionnaires, the majority of the items covered firearms knowledge, acquisition, and use. The remaining items in the inmate survey primarily covered criminal behavior and, secondarily, victimization histories. In the student survey, these priorities were reversed.

Sheley, Joseph F., Wright, James D., and Smith, M. Dwayne. Firearms, Violence, and Youth in California, Illinois, Louisiana, and New Jersey, 1991. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2005-11-04. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR06484.v1

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (90-IJ-CX-0024)
1991-01 -- 1991-04
1991-01 -- 1991-04

Users are encouraged to obtain a copy of the Final Report for further details of the representativeness of the respondents.

The increase in violence committed by and against juveniles has come more and more to define the public's image of the crime problem and the larger political debate over anti-crime policy. While evidence documenting the extent of youth violence is abundant, the available research evidence dealing with juveniles, guns, and violence has left many important questions unanswered, for which this data collection attempts to provide information. Concerning violence on the streets, how many street juveniles, of what description, own, carry, or use firearms on a routine basis? Where and how are their firearms obtained? What empirical relationships can be discerned between firearms behaviors and involvement in crime, gangs, or the drug trade? Concerning juvenile violence in the schools, how prevalent is gun ownership, carrying, and use among students in inner-city schools? Who are the inner-city victims of youthful gun violence? Regarding current beliefs about gangs, drugs, and guns, how much is true and how much is modern urban myth? If guns are indeed prevalent among youth, whether they are gang members or not, what kinds of guns do the youths possess? Where and how do juveniles obtain their firearms, how easily, and at what cost?

Efforts were concentrated on incarcerated (criminally active) juveniles and students in inner-city high schools, since these youths are popularly considered to engage in and experience violence (especially gun-related violence), to belong to urban street gangs, and to participate in the drug trafficking thought to lead to excessive gun violence. Self-administered questionnaires were completed by 835 male inmates in six correctional facilities and 1,663 male and female students from ten inner-city high schools in the United States. Data collection took place during January through April of 1991. Respondents were told that the research sought information about what they knew about guns in their neighborhoods and peer groups, as well as information about their personal knowledge and experience. In all cases, students and inmates were assured that their participation in the study was voluntary and anonymous. Respondents were also asked to sign a form attesting that they understood the subject of the study and that their participation was entirely voluntary. For the inmate survey, administrators announced the study to wards in each of the smaller facilities' dormitories and to those in about half of the larger facilities' dormitories. To maximize response rates, inducements of five dollars were offered to the inmates, Spanish-language versions of the questionnaire were provided to inmates who preferred them, and personal interviews were conducted with inmates whose reading skills were less than sufficient to complete the questionnaire on their own. In all cases, groups of 10 to 20 inmates completed the questionnaire at a time. Average completion time for the survey was less than one hour. In some schools, the survey was administered to groups of 20 to 30 students at a time. In others, the survey was given to larger assemblies of 100 to 200 students. In four schools, principals permitted inducements of five dollars to be offered to the students to participate in the study. As with the inmate survey, a Spanish-language version of the questionnaire was provided to students who preferred it.

The site selection strategy specifically targeted areas in which gun-related activities were considered relatively extensive. Although technically not generalizable, the sites were also not to deviate obviously or seriously from most sites. To sample criminally active youth, inmates in the chosen states' major juvenile corrections facilities were sought. To sample inner-city students, high school students (ninth- through twelfth-graders) in large public schools in major cities near the correctional facilities were targeted.

Male youths incarcerated in six juvenile corrections facilities in California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Louisiana, and male and female students attending public schools proximate to the six correctional facilities.

Individuals.

self-enumerated questionnaires

survey data

The questionnaires covered roughly the same core topics for both inmates and students. Items included questions on sociodemographic characteristics, school experiences, gun ownership, gun use for several types of firearms, gun acquisition patterns, gun-carrying habits, use of other weapons, gang membership and gang activities, self-reported criminal histories, victimization patterns, drug use, alcohol use, and attitudes concerning guns, crime, and violence. In both questionnaires, the majority of the items covered firearms knowledge, acquisition, and use. The remaining items in the inmate survey primarily covered criminal behavior and, secondarily, victimization histories. In the student survey, these priorities were reversed.

Although exact response rates are not available, the number of inmates actually surveyed varied from 22 percent of the facilities' populations to 62 percent, with a mean of 42 percent. For the student survey, the number of students surveyed in each school ranged from 109 to 229, with a mean of 165. The percentage of the student population surveyed across schools ranged from 7 to 21 percent, with a mean of 10 percent. For both surveys, lower percentages were a function of the larger-sized facilities or schools.

Several Likert-type scales were used.

1996-01-22

2005-11-04

2018-02-15 The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented. The previous citation was:
  • Sheley, Joseph F., James D. Wright, and M. Dwayne Smith. FIREARMS, VIOLENCE, AND YOUTH IN CALIFORNIA, ILLINOIS, LOUISIANA, AND NEW JERSEY, 1991. ICPSR version. New Orleans, LA: Tulane University, Department of Sociology [producer], 1993. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1995. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR06484.v1

2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.

1996-01-22 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Notes

  • These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they were received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except for the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompanying readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collection and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

  • The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented.
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This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.