Kids and assault weapons: Social problem or social construction?

Rick Ruddell, Scott H. Decker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The sunset of the federal assault weapons ban in September 2004 increased the political and scholarly debate about the criminal use of such firearms. Some of the debate is alarmist, suggesting that juveniles have easy access to these firearms and are likely to use them in violent offenses. These perspectives are reinforced on television and in films and contribute to perceptions about the sophistication of weapons that juveniles possess, as well as to the punishments that juveniles should face. This study examines firearms recovered from juvenile offenders in both national and city samples from 1992 to 2000 and finds that assault weapons are seldom used or possessed by juveniles. Our findings suggest that the disjuncture between popular perceptions and the reality of juvenile gun use has been socially constructed by four different groups: the police, news and entertainment organizations, interest groups, and juveniles themselves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-63
Number of pages19
JournalCriminal Justice Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Assault weapons
  • Juvenile gun use
  • Social construction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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