Why Have Teen Gun Death Rates Dropped in NYC, L.A.?

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Teenagers in the nation’s two largest metropolises, New York City and Los Angeles, once suffered gun killing rates triple the national average. Over the last 25 to 30 years, teens’ gun death rates in these two cities have fallen by an astonishing 88 percent, writes Mike Males for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. What caused such spectacular declines in gun deaths? Anti-violence programs? Many cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Minneapolis, have implemented them. Yet none show gun violence reductions approaching those of L.A. and New York City. Gun control laws, perhaps? California and New York boast the strong gun control policies, including background checks and restrictions on high-capacity weaponry.

Large cities in Texas with weak gun laws have also experienced larger than average gun-death declines. In Dallas-Fort Worth, teenagers’ rates of gun homicide fell by 80 percent and gun suicide by 63 percent over the last 25 years. In California’s 25 inland, politically conservative counties, middle-aged white people ages 40 to 69 are considerably more likely to be arrested for homicide and to die by gun homicide than teenagers living in the state’s major urban areas. Males says one factor in the declines may be immigration. New York City and cities in California and Texas have had the nation’s largest influxes of immigrants. He believes that the trend “may signal the emergence of new multicultures dramatically diminishing urban violence and social problems, including crime, substance use, unplanned pregnancy and school dropouts.” We don’t understand these trends because we haven’t studied them — or even admitted they are happening, Males says. He urges more research into why teen gun deaths have dropped in certain big cities.

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