Sunday, October 25, 2015

Teens and Gun Homicide

The FBI collects data through both the Summary Reporting System and National Incident Based Reporting System to produce the nation’s annual crime statistic publications (FBI, 2013). The annual statistics summarize the monthly reports made by the majority of the nation’s police personnel. The FBI carefully monitors the data quality for accuracy, reliability and reasonableness before disseminating such influential information (FBI, 2013). However, one must be careful when interpreting the data to apply it in meaningful ways. Using the data to compare agencies, states or cohorts which dramatically differ in unmeasured variables, such as access to opportunity, can alter the accuracy of the reports (FBI, 2013). On the other hand, when statistics are meaningfully examined moderators of crime can reveal emerging patterns in crime trends.
In 2013, it was indicated that the estimated rate of murder was 4.5 murders per 100,000 people and 14,196 murders total (FBI, 2013). Reportedly this accounts for a decline of 4.4% in murders and 5.1% in murder rates from the 2012 reports (FBI, 2013). In as many as 69% of those murders the choice weapon was a firearm (FBI, 2013). Of those victims most were male (77.7%) and the majority were black (51.7%), followed by white (45.7 %), and only a small number of (2.5%) other races or unknowns. Of the offenders for whom gender was known 89.3 % were male, 53.6 % were black, 43.9 % were white with only 2.5 % of other races (FBI, 2013). Sadly in over half of the murders the victim was known to the offender, a third were in relationships and a quarter were related (FBI, 2013).
Interestingly when you cross the victim’s and offender’s race and ethnicity you see that same race murder is more common than cross racial killings in both the black and white cohorts. In fact, most persons murdered were murdered by a person of the same race and were not of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. When you cross the genders of the offender and victim you notice murder is more common between men and men, men and women, women and men, but women murder other women less frequently than the other groups. Looking at age of the offenders, regardless of race or gender, the likelihood of murdering increases during adolescence, peaking at ages 19-22, and slowly decreasing in incidences from there.
One recent study found that teens were an over represented population of murderers, particularly gun murders (Males, 2015). In general, adolescence are more like to murder, including by use of firearm, than other age groups. This affect is partly modulated by the teenager’s proclivity for high risk behavior. Yet, emerging evidence indicates that socioeconomic status is a significant moderator of gun homicide in teens as well (Males, 2015). Using a population-level analysis of two crime moderators, age and poverty, a recent study found that as many as 81% of adolescent offenders convicted of homicides, ages 15-24, had indicated poverty levels of 20% or higher (Males, 2015). Less than 2% of teen murderers were from poverty brackets of 10% or higher (Males, 2015).
Upon examination it is clear that male genders, regardless of race, are more likely to murder and be murdered, than females. Biological factors that contribute to gender differences in murder rates could include higher testosterone and lower Monoamine Oxidase A (Conklin, 2008, p. 110). While high levels of testosterone are linked to violent crime, including murder and rape, low levels of monoamine oxidase A are “modestly associated” to behavior patterns linked to criminality, including “extreme impulsiveness, childhood hyperactivity, poor academic performance, sensation seeking, and recreational alcohol and drug use” (Conklin, 2008, p. 110).
The research indicates that minorities are over represented in prison populations, especially pertaining to those on death row (Sniffen, 2000). Yet, as we can see from the crime reports, the total number of murders committed by blacks and whites in the last two years does not differ that much. This indicates, as research has previously suggested, that the race of the victim and the offender influences the outcome of criminal proceedings, such as “the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty” (Conklin, 2008, p. 341). Unfortunately research has also confirmed those who were accused of murdering whites were more likely to be sentenced and executed “than those who murdered blacks” (Conklin, 2008, p. 341). It is likely that at least part of these differences are because minorities are disproportionally affected by poverty. Poverty affects opportunity, education, social support and means to navigate the criminal justice proceeding successfully.
As we have seen here gender, age, and socioeconomic status are all moderators of murder rates. Seemingly during the adolescences are the most high risk age group concerning homicides, regardless of sex or choice of weapon. That being said, male’s ages 19-22 are a higher risk for both being murdered and murdering someone others. Moreover, adolenecents in the highest bracket of poverty are at the most risk for committing homicide, including homicide with the use of a firearm. While the risk of death by homicide is more if you are a black, the risk of homicide from someone outside your race and ethnicity is actually low. The majority of persons are murdered by people in their own race, people they know, including their lovers and family members. Though misleading prison populations and death row disparities suggest a correlation with race/ethnicity and homicide, the amount of arrests for homicides by blacks and whites are not dramatically different (300). It is more likely that race moderates successful navigation through criminal proceeding by indirect means, such as lack of opportunity or unfair sentencing practices. Because of the number murder conviction and death row dipartites between race and ethnicities is ambiguously moderated future research should examine it more thoroughly.
Conklin, J. E. (2008). Criminology, 10th Edition. Pearson Learning Solutions, VitalBook file.
FBI. (2013). Crime in the US 2013. Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Retrieved from
Federal Bureau of Investigations. (2014). Date Quality Guidelines. United States Government & United States Department of Justice. Retrieved from
Males, M. (2015). Age, Poverty, Homicide, and Gun Homicide: Is Young Age or Poverty Level the Key Issue? Sage Pub. DOI: 10.1177/2158244015573359. Retrieved from
Sniffen, M. J. (2000). Racial disparity found in death penalty system. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved from