Nearly one in four people arrested for weapons crimes are juveniles, and weapons offenses are the fastest growing youth crime, the Justice Department said Sunday.
A study by the department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics found that juveniles accounted for 23 percent of all weapons crime arrests in 1993, compared to 16 percent in 1974. Such juvenile arrests more than doubled, from less than 30,000 to more than 61,000, between 1985 and 1993 while adult arrests for these crimes grew by one-third.
Juvenile delinquency cases involving weapons violations grew by 86 percent between 1988 and 1992, more than any other type of juvenile offense.
The weapons crime data track closely the surge in violent youth crimes, which has been widely reported during the last three years.
Weapons offenses include the illegal use, possession, trafficking, carrying, manufacturing, importing or exporting of guns, ammunition, silencers, explosives and some types of knives.
President Clinton said in a statement Sunday that the statistics are “a chilling reminder” that juvenile violence is the country’s top crime problem. “Now is not the time to weaken our laws,” the president said.
Teenage violence, particularly with guns, has been rising steadily since 1985, even as the number of teenagers declined. During the next 20 years, the age 14-17 group is expected to grow.
“If the last decade’s trends continue unchecked, juvenile arrests for violent crime will double by the year 2010,” Attorney General Janet Reno said last week.
The government already has begun to the respond to the soaring teenage gun violence. Last year’s crime act made it a federal offense for people under age 18 to own a handgun and provided up to 10 years in prison for anyone providing a handgun to someone under age 18.
Last week, Reno allocated $8 million for six communities to test a variety of ideas for reducing youth violence. Under the crime act, 10 police departments have been allocated $1 million to devise community policing programs designed to curb youth gun crimes.
The administration is asking Congress to override a Supreme Court decision that struck down a law banning guns on school property.
Rep. Charles Schumer of New York, ranking Democrat on the House crime subcommittee, is drafting legislation to require that states make public the names of juveniles convicted of felonies involving guns “so the people and the system would know.”