ALBAWABA - One in four Colorado teenagers could get access to a gun within 24 hours, according to a survey published in the U.S. this week.
The survey, which was published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, coincides with attempts by Democrats to introduce gun reform bills to Colorado legislators. Parents and students at East High School there demand stringent gun control legislation to curb armed violence. The school was the site of a shooting incident last Wednesday, when a 17-year-old shot and wounded two people before killing himself.
Commenting on the findings, Virginia McCarthy, a doctoral candidate at the Colorado School of Public Health and the lead author of the research letter in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics said: "This is scary when you realize how much access there is for these teens."
McCarthy noted that the timing—not just access—is what matters when discussing how teens obtain firearms, particularly if the teen in question is contemplating suicide.
McCarthy pointed out that prior research demonstrated that nearly a quarter of completed suicides among youth and adolescents occur with a firearm that is obtained outside their homes. The survey, however, did not disclose how teens were accessing those guns.
As for how long it takes for teens who are considering suicide to act, McCarthy said: "For suicidal ideation to action, oftentimes, that time period is under 10 minutes."
She maintained that research is important because it could answer other questions about when, where, and how teens access guns. "If we don't ask those questions, then we don't know how to respond and say, 'In this circumstance, we would advise this method of, of secure storage, or we would advise this (other method to prevent negative outcomes)'."
The discoveries come as Denverites manage the most recent episode at East Secondary School, where an understudy shot and harmed two dignitaries last week. This student, who was bound by a school safety agreement to be patted down at the start of each day, was later discovered dead in Park County from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The student's initial method of acquiring the gun has not been disclosed by authorities.
The most recent incident is only one of three that have involved school students in the past six months.
After being shot while he was inside a parked vehicle close to the school on February 13, Luis Garcia, 16, was admitted to the hospital with a "very poor prognosis." He had been shot. He would pass on from his wounds around fourteen days after the fact. Last September, an East High School student and another man were injured in a shooting that occurred in close proximity to the school.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's (CDPHE) Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which randomly selected 41,000 middle school and high school students, provided the study's data in the fall of 2021.
The question "How long would it take you to get and be ready to fire a loaded gun without the permission of a parent or other adult" was included in the survey. The gun could belong to you or someone else, and it could be in your home or car or in the home or car of someone else.
While 32.3 percent of students interviewed for the study reported having access to a firearm, 25.3 percent, or 1 in 4, could gain access in less than a day, according to the study. Some 12.1 percent of those students said that they could acquire access to a loaded gun within 10 minutes or less.
About 38.9 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native students said they could get a loaded gun in less than 10 minutes, with 17.5 percent saying they could. The study found that Blacks had the least access to a loaded gun, with 25.3 percent, followed by Latinos, who had 26.3 percent. White students had the second most access to a loaded gun (36.9 percent), with 13.5 percent saying they could get one in less than 10 minutes.
It should not come as a surprise that male students reported having easier access to a loaded gun than female students (37.9 percent vs. 26.4 percent) and that they could access a loaded gun in less than ten minutes, nearly twice as quickly as their female counterparts.
Even though crime is higher in cities than in rural areas, only 28.6 percent of city-dwelling teens in Colorado said they could get a loaded gun, compared to nearly 40 percent of rural teens.
Although the study examined the ease with which Colorado teenagers could acquire firearms, it did not examine school violence or mass shootings in schools but rather suicide prevention.
The findings come as Colorado lawmakers debate a number of gun reform bills that were introduced by Democrats at the same time that East High students and parents demand that more be done to end gun violence in their classrooms.
The Colorado House of Representatives debated two significant gun reform bills last week: one to make it possible for people to sue gun manufacturers, and another to strengthen red flag laws in the state. Over the weekend, the former was approved by the House.
Additionally, on Monday, two more bills overcame significant legislative obstacles, one of which would have established a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases and the other would have restricted all firearm purchases to adults over the age of 21.
According to our partners at The Denver Post, the age limit bill was approved by a formal vote in the House, while the three-day waiting period bill was approved by a preliminary voice vote. Both of these bills still need a formal vote to be approved, which the Democratic majority guarantees will happen.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearms are the leading cause of death among teens in the United States. Previously, car accidents had been the leading cause of death among children and adolescents since the turn of the century. But in 2020, firearm homicide rates increased by 33 percent from 2019 to 2020, more than double the 13.5 percent increase in the population, as a whole.
According to the most recent data, this means that firearms now kill more children and teens than car accidents do. While some may argue that this was caused by the coronavirus pandemic, experts say the reasons are unclear, and "it cannot be assumed that firearm-related mortality will later revert to pre-pandemic levels."
According to a report that was published in 2022 by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the rise in the number of children and adolescent deaths caused by firearms "was primarily driven by an increase in gun assault deaths," with the United States ranking first among wealthy nations for child firearm deaths.
Researchers noted that "the U.S. accounts for 97 percent of gun-related child deaths, despite representing 46 percent of the total population in these similarly and wealthy countries," and that "no other similarly large or wealthy country are firearm deaths in the top 4 causes of mortality let alone the number one cause of death among children."
As of Tuesday, more than 10,000 people in the United States had died as a result of gun violence, or an average of more than 114 deaths per day, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. Among those victims are 347 teenagers and 59 children.
Written by Albawaba writer Salam Bustanji