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Publication Q&A: Trajectories of Handgun Carrying in Rural Communities From Early Adolescence to Young Adulthood

April 2022 – In this Q&A, Dr. Alice Ellyson shares insights from a recent publication in JAMA Network Open.

Read the article: Trajectories of Handgun Carrying in Rural Communities From Early Adolescence to Young Adulthood

What are the significant findings in this paper?

  • About one in three youth growing up in rural areas carried a handgun at least once between ages 12 and 26 in this study.
  • Handgun carrying among youth was episodic in rural areas similar to urban areas. Over half (53.2%) of participants reported carrying in only one of 11 study waves.
  • There were distinct patterns of handgun carrying.
    • Some patterns, like the steadily increasing pattern, started carrying early, around age 14 or 15, and had about a 44% chance of carrying at age 26.
    • Other patterns delayed carrying until young adulthood, like the emerging adulthood pattern, with average initiation around age 24, but had a similar chance, 50%, of carrying at age 26.

What does this research tell us that we didn’t know before?

We found that handgun carrying patterns differ among youth growing up in rural areas compared to urban areas. We also found that youth in rural areas may initiate handgun carrying at a young age, before age 12.

Prevention programs in rural areas may need to start early in the elementary school period.

What are the broad implications of this research? (i.e., How might this research lead to better ways to treat/prevent/diagnose?)

Our study found that handgun carrying was more common among youth growing up in rural areas compared to urban areas, and the patterns of carrying also differed. Patterns with a high probability of carrying also carried more frequently and in more study waves. The age of initiation of some handgun carrying patterns is young, around age 12. Promoting handgun safety in rural areas should start early. More research is needed to understand why and under what circumstances youth in rural areas carry handguns.

What are the next steps and long-term goals for this research?

Our study team is currently examining both antecedents and consequences of handgun carrying among youth growing up in rural areas. Our partners at Washington State University are also conducting focus groups with youth around Washington state to understand the motivations for and circumstances of carrying among current adolescents living in rural areas in Washington state.

Any other specific information should we know about this paper?

This project was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. See a list of firearm-related funding.

Funded project title: Culture, Longitudinal Patterns, and Safety Promotion of Handgun Carrying Among Rural Adolescents: Implications for Injury Prevention

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, University of Washington

Lead author: Alice M. Ellyson, MS, PhD

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