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Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2012
NCES 2013-036
2013

Indicator 14: Students Carrying Weapons on School Property and Anywhere

Between 1993 and 2011, the percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported carrying a weapon anywhere at least once during the previous 30 days declined from 22 to 17 percent, and the percentage who reported carrying a weapon on school property declined from 12 to 5 percent.

The presence of weapons at school may interfere with teaching and learning by creating an intimidating and threatening atmosphere (Aspy et al. 2004). In the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), students were asked if they had carried a weapon such as a gun, knife, or club anywhere in the previous 30 days and if they had carried such a weapon on school property during the same time period.33 Weapon carrying "anywhere" is included as a point of comparison with weapon carrying on school property. In a different survey, the School Crime Supplement (SCS), students were asked if they could have gotten a loaded gun without adult permission, either at school or away from school, during the current school year. This indicator discusses YRBS data first and concludes with a discussion of students’ access to firearms at school or away from school, using data from the SCS. Readers should note the differing data sources and terminology.

In 2011, some 17 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported that they had carried a weapon anywhere on at least 1 day during the previous 30 days: 8 percent carried a weapon anywhere on 6 or more days, 6 percent carried a weapon on 2 to 5 days, and 3 percent carried a weapon on 1 day (tables 14.1 and 14.2). In comparison, 5 percent of students reported carrying a weapon on school property during the previous 30 days. This percentage was composed of 2 percent of students who carried a weapon on 6 or more days, 1 percent who carried a weapon on 2 to 5 days, and 2 percent who carried a weapon on 1 day.

The percentage of students who reported carrying a weapon anywhere in the previous 30 days declined from 22 percent in 1993 to 17 percent in 2011, and the percentage who reported carrying a weapon on school property declined from 12 percent in 1993 to 5 percent in 2011. There was no measurable difference, however, between the 2009 and 2011 percentages of students who reported carrying a weapon anywhere, nor was there a measurable difference between the 2009 and 2011 percentages of students who reported carrying a weapon on school property.

In every survey year from 1993 to 2011, a higher percentage of males than females reported that they had carried a weapon, both anywhere and on school property (figure 14.1 and table 14.1). In 2011, for example, 26 percent of males carried a weapon anywhere, compared to 7 percent of females, and 8 percent of males carried a weapon on school property, compared to 2 percent of females.

In 2011, a smaller percentage of Asian students than students of any other racial/ethnic group reported carrying a weapon anywhere in the previous 30 days (figure 14.2 and table 14.1). Nine percent of Asian students reported carrying a weapon anywhere in the previous 30 days, compared with 14 percent of Black students, 16 percent of Hispanic students, 17 percent of White students, 21 percent of Pacific Islander/ Native Hawaiian students, 24 percent of students of two or more races, and 28 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native students. In addition, the percentages of White, Black, and Hispanic students who reported carrying a weapon anywhere in the previous 30 days were lower than the percentages for American Indian/Alaska Native students and students of two or more races. The percentage of students who reported they had carried a weapon on school property over the previous 30 days ranged from 4 to 11 percent across racial/ethnic groups in 2011; however, there were no measurable differences between these groups.

There were no measurable differences between the percentages of students at each of the grade levels 9 through 12 who reported carrying a weapon anywhere during the previous 30 days. In 2011, about 16 percent each of 11th-graders and 12th-graders, and 17 percent each of 9th-graders and 10th-graders reported carrying a weapon anywhere during the previous 30 days. Similarly, the percentages of students who reported carrying a weapon on school property during the previous 30 days did not differ measurably by grade level: 5 percent each of 9th- graders and 11th-graders and 6 percent each of 10th-graders and 12th-graders reported carrying a weapon on school property in 2011.

In 2011, state-level data on percentages of public school students who reported carrying a weapon anywhere were available for 37 states and the District of Columbia, and state-level data on percentages of students who reported carrying a weapon on school property were available for 39 states and the District of Columbia (table 14.3). Among these states, the percentage of students who reported carrying a weapon anywhere ranged from 10 percent in New Jersey and Wisconsin to 27 percent in Wyoming, while the percentage of students who reported carrying a weapon on school property ranged from 3 percent in Wisconsin to 11 percent in Wyoming.

Information about students’ access to firearms can put student reports of carrying a gun anywhere and on school property into context. The 2007, 2009, and 2011 SCS surveys provide data on the percentage of students ages 12–18 who reported having access to a loaded gun without adult permission, either at school or away from school, during the school year. In 2011, about 5 percent of students ages 12–18 reported having access to a loaded gun during the school year (table 14.4).

In 2011, lower percentages of students in grades 7 and 8 reported having access to a gun without adult permission than students in grades 10, 11, and 12. Three percent each of 7th- and 8th-grade students reported having access to a gun, compared with 5 percent of 10th-graders, 6 percent of 11th-graders, and 8 percent of 12th-graders. The percentage of 12th-graders reporting that they had access to a gun (8 percent) was also higher than that of 9th-graders (4 percent) and 10th-graders (5 percent).

The percentage of students reporting that they had access to a gun without adult permission was lower in 2009 and 2011 (6 percent and 5 percent, respectively) than it was in 2007 (7 percent). In all three survey years, a higher percentage of male students than female students reported having access to a gun. For example, in 2011, about 6 percent of males reported having access to a gun, compared with 4 percent of females.

This indicator has been updated to include 2011 data. For more information: Tables 14.1, 14.2, 14.3, and 14.4, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012), (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6104.pdf), and DeVoe and Bauer (2011), (http://nces. ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2012314).


33 The term "anywhere" is not used in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) questionnaire; students are simply asked how many days they carried a weapon during the past 30 days. In the question that asks students about carrying a weapon at school, "on school property" was not defined for survey respondents.


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