Senate panel finds a steep increase in the number of children using guns

October 02, 1992|By Cox News Service

WASHINGTON -- The number of guns confiscated fro schoolchildren has risen sharply over the past four years, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported yesterday.

"Just as drugs have found their way into the hands of our children, so have guns," said the committee chairman, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del.

Of 32 large cities surveyed by the panel, Indianapolis led the nation with a 322 percent increase from 1989 to 1992, followed by 213 percent rise in St. Paul, Minn. Two cities showed a decrease -- 7 percent in Minneapolis and 50 percent in Washington, D.C.

Other sites surveyed were Atlanta, which registered a 68 percent increase; Dayton, Ohio, with a 59 percent increase; Dade County, Fla., with a 42 percent increase, and Philadelphia, with a 17 percent increase.

The panel released only percentages, and not the actual numbers of guns seized. Staffers said they had no way of knowing what part of the increase might be due to schools' increased efforts to screen students for weapons.

Mr. Biden cited data from the Centers for Disease Control showing that on any given day, 135,000 children nationwide bring a gun to school, and one in five has carried a deadly weapon to school in the past month.

Most of the children apparently bring the guns from home. But Lt. Thomas G. Byrne of the Chicago Police Department told the committee that many guns confiscated in his city's schools are unregistered and not reported stolen or missing.

Ronald D. Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center, told the panel that school administrators in Houston learned this year that one student was running a gun rental service on their campus.

Why are children bringing guns to schools? Witnesses said yesterday that some are involved in gangs that may require their members to carry guns, some bring them to show off, and some bring them to protect themselves from other students who have guns.

"There was a time when the only thing children had to worry about at school was an occasional bully." observed Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. "Now, in many urban high schools they have (( to literally watch their backs or risk being shot."

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