Blaming access to guns doesn't get to heart of why teen violence occurs

There they go again. Cities like Cincinnati and Columbus, with help from media outlets, rush to blame access to guns for the uptick in teen violence and demand new laws to mandate "safe" storage of firearms.

Their answer is to punish safe and law-abiding gun owners for the actions of law-breakers. Translation: We must forfeit our constitutional rights and civil liberties because someone else abuses their rights.

From WKRC in Cincinnati (which oddly quotes itself as a source in stories):

Police Chief Teresa Theetge said that a contributing factor to Cincinnati’s street violence is the flood of guns onto the streets from car thefts. …

"We had to draft the most narrowly tailored legislation in order to pass an ordinance that we believed would be defensible in court,” said Mayor Aftab Pureval, (D) Cincinnati.

Local 12 asked, "so did you not think it would be defensible to include cars in your safe storage [ordinance]?" …

The mayor said he has to balance the interests of the city. When the city passed a bump-stock ordinance in 2018, The Buckeye Firearms Association sued and won. The city had to pay their legal fees to the tune of $235,000.

From The Columbus Dispatch:

In 2022, 25 teens were charged with committing murder or aggravated murder that year or late the year before in Franklin County Juvenile Court. So far this year, 20 juveniles have been charged with murder or aggravated murder.

It’s a dramatic spike after a decade of mostly single-digit murder cases in juvenile court each year. …

The answers to why this is happening are complicated. Defense attorneys, prosecutors, researchers and community leaders point to readily available guns, families struggling after the pandemic, kids’ exposure to violence, a mental health crisis among youth, and a culture on social media that both idolizes guns and quickly changes petty feuds from verbal disagreements to gunfire.

To The Dispatch's credit, the story notes other factors, such as social media, lack of belonging, and a mental crisis among youth. But the clear scapegoats were access to guns and a so-called gun culture.

Gun causation is a myth

I grew up around firearms. My dad had several in his closet — bolt-action rifles, repeater rifles, single-shot shotguns, pump shotguns, handguns — all of those. I kept my own Savage single-shot 20-gauge in my closet as a teen. My dad's pickup truck had a rack in the rear window, and he frequently picked me up from school in the afternoons to go rabbit hunting. I had full access to them all and could have taken any of them outside and fired away in our rural backyard — until word got back to my old man that I had done so without his permission. Then I knew I wouldn't be able to sit down for a week and my hunting season would be over.

Such was the case for children throughout America's modern history. We treated guns with respect. We didn't misuse them or commit acts of violence. And if we did anything with them that we shouldn't have, we suffered the consequences from our parents.

An interesting video making its way around social media highlights this concept.

Guns and access to them are not the cause of teen violence, and many gun-grabbing leaders know it.

"Keep and Bear Radio" podcast: Clear Answers to 11 Common Questions About Ohio Gun Law

Let's also debunk the false narrative that guns are the leading cause of death among children and teens.

The Crime Prevention Research Center, led by John R. Lott Jr., posted a research article May 25, with stats provided by the FBI and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For those under 18, vehicle deaths are consistently greater than those from firearms. For those under 20, firearm deaths exceed vehicle deaths for 2020 and 2021 when you use the CDC firearm homicide data. When you use the FBI homicide data, the vehicle deaths exceed the firearm deaths for 2019 and 2020, and likely 2021, though the FBI data isn’t available for that year. The bottom line is that about 1/3rd of the firearm deaths for those under 20 involve homicide, where the victims are 18 and 19 years old. About another 20% of involve homicides for 15, 16, and 17-year-olds. These deaths are largely gang-related and even banning guns is unlikely to stop drug gangs from getting a hold of guns to protect their extremely valuable drugs.

Using the CDC firearm homicide data, about 5% of the deaths for those under 18 involve accidents and 34% suicides.

Suffocation deaths for those under 18 are greater than total firearm deaths using the FBI numbers in both 2019 and 2020 (2,253 and 2,110).

Lott penned another piece for The Hill regarding gun locks and safe storage.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, accidental gunshots nationwide claimed the lives of an average of 59 children annually over the ten years from 2006 to 2015. This is a tragic number, but so too is the much larger number of cases where people aren’t able to protect themselves and their families from criminals.

Getting to the heart of the cause

Just as easily as the anti-gun crowd blames guns, we could point the finger at social media, violent video games, the absence of fathers, slap-on-the-wrist sentences, or any other societal factor, and we could cherry-pick stats to make our case. But would that be fair?

Buckeye Firearms Association is a gun-rights organization, not a group of psychologists, so we don't have an answer to the emotional and mental backdrops to the "why" behind teens and crime, and we aren't here to explain why society's value of human life has been diminished. Our primary role is to fight for the right to keep and bear arms that has been enshrined in the Constitution since the late 1700s.

ICYMI: 5 gun law facts you should know before toking that first 'legal' joint

Are any real health experts, without bias, searching for a legitimate reason?

The National Institutes of Health in April 2018 published an article from National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, titled "Addressing the Social and Cultural Norms That Underlie the Acceptance of Violence."

The article served as a recap of a forum that had looked at the roles that media, religion, gender, exposure to violence, and other factors play in shaping cultural and social norms.

To better understand how social and cultural norms are related to violence and violence prevention, the Forum on Global Violence Prevention convened a workshop1 on October 29–30, 2015, to explore the social and cultural norms that underlie the acceptance of violence, with a focus on violence against women across the lifespan, violence against children, and youth violence. The workshop addressed causes, effects, characteristics, and contextual variations related to social and cultural norms related to violence; what is known about the effectiveness of efforts to alter those norms in order to prevent and mitigate such violence; and the role of multiple sectors and stakeholders in the prevention of this violence.

No conclusive solution was provided in the article, but the panelists at least seemed to make an effort to get to the real issues.

'Anything is better than nothing' is a bad strategy

We've all heard someone say, "If it saves just one life, it's worth it." But is it?

I was in a meeting once when a high-level manager said, "Don't just do something; sit there." The idea is that an action based on anecdotal evidence could lead to much greater consequences later.

Restricting the rights of law-abiding gun owners to defend themselves, their families, and their homes would do nothing to deter abusers of those rights from unlawful and irresponsible actions. This country's elected federal, state, and local leaders must adhere to the Constitution while getting to the real heart of the matter and stop with the useless virtue signaling that does nothing but help fund their campaigns at election time.

We cannot allow them to restrict our rights so they can forward a false sense of security — which secures nobody.

As Benjamin Franklin said to the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1755:

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Joe D. "Buck" Ruth is a longtime small-game hunter and gun owner who spent nearly three decades in the news industry.

Help us fight for your rights!

Become a member of Buckeye Firearms Association and support our grassroots efforts to defend and advance YOUR RIGHTS!

Subscribe to our FREE Newsletter

Get weekly news and instant alerts on the latest laws and politics that affect your gun rights. Enjoy cutting-edge commentary. Be among the first to hear about gun raffles, firearms training, and special events. Read more.

We respect your privacy and your email address will be kept confidential.


Buckeye Firearms Association is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending and advancing the right of citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities, including self-defense, hunting, competition, and recreation. Read more.