Statement of Purpose The greater than 11 000 annual firearm homicides and 60 000 nonfatal firearm assaults are disproportionately borne by young, urban males and their families. Cities across the United States are left to address the epidemic of firearm injuries resulting from this flow of illegally obtained firearms across their borders. With scarce resources, local municipalities have had a difficult time identifying the sources of guns, the patterns of behaviour, and the pathways of transactions for youth who obtain firearms illegally. Understanding these transactions can help cities properly address the issue at local, state and even federal levels. The purpose of this study was to explore youth and young adult perspectives on gun violence and accessibility in their community.
Methods We conducted focus groups (n=5, ages 14–17) and semi-structured (n=19, ages 18–24) interviews with a purposive sample of youth who either lived in or spent a significant amount of time in one police district in Philadelphia, PA. Youth were recruited from at-risk, youth serving community organisations. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and coded thematically.
Results Participants reported they could quickly and easily access a firearm and believed that to be true of their peers. They discussed people who owned the firearms and places around the community where guns were carried and stored. Participants did not have an accurate understanding of firearm laws and policies and shared some solutions to addressing the problem of violence.
Conclusions Youth firearm violence is a result of many factors including easy access to firearms. Enhancing existing community infrastructure and knowledge will address some issues but is not comprehensive enough to address spillover effects of state laws.
Significance Curbing firearm access will require a multi-pronged approach of national, state and local efforts. Specifically, city officials need to hold state officials accountable for addressing the needs of urban youth.