Teen gun violence a growing issue in Metro Detroit: What experts are saying

Officials: 6% of kids report carrying weapon to school

DETROIT – Eight teens have been shot in Detroit in January, three of which shootings were fatal.

There is no question there is a serious issue with teens and guns. Many times teens are the victims, and other times they are the shooter.

It’s a problem and it has recently gotten much worse. Detroit police Chief James White says the issue keeps him awake at night.

“But then you look at 2022 -- In 2022 there’s a 50% uptick in victims of homicides for juveniles, a 130% uptick in offenders of homicide for juveniles,” White said. “So we went from 10 to 23.

“You look at our non-fatal shooting victims, a 25% uptick. You look at our non-fatal shooting offenders, a 33% uptick.”

It’s frightening what’s happening in Detroit when it comes to teens and guns, but don’t be fooled: The issue is prevalent throughout Metro Detroit.

“It’s starting to, pardon the expression, explode again, yes,” said Marc Zimmerman of the Institute for Firearm Safety Protection at the University of Michigan. “About 6% of kids report carrying a weapon to school.”

Many times, that weapon is a gun. Zimmerman says kids have access to guns far more often than their parents believe.

“We have found about a third to half of adults who think their kids can’t get access to their gun -- when we asked the kids they say, ‘oh I can get access to that gun in 15 minutes,’” Zimmerman said.

“75% to 80% of all school shooters obtained their gun either from a family’s home, or their own home,” Zimmerman said. “So they’re getting these unsecured guns.”

Clearly, that’s part of the solution, keeping guns away from teens, locking and securing them correctly.

Experts also say conversations need to be had ahead of time. They say it’s important to remember the human brain is not fully developed until age 25.

“The fact that their brains aren’t fully developed has two implications,” Zimmerman said. “The first one is decision making and thinking, ‘I’ll solve this problem with a gun.’ And they see it on television, so why can’t they do it in real life?”

“But if you have to prevent a kid from carrying a gun to school, you’re already losing,” said Naoka Carey, who researches gun issues at Boston College. “You’re already losing, because you have to think about, ‘Why is that kid carrying a gun to school?’ Being bullied, revenge, being isolated.”

Related: Mass gun murder in America: What’s behind it, ways to end it

Carey says while there is a lot of attention to safety at schools in regard to guns, there is so much more to consider.

“It’s not just schools, and we often think about school violence prevention, it’s really gotta be a whole community kind of approach, because kids live in the community,” she said. “Even though they spend a lot of time (at school), they don’t spend all their time there.”

Auto deaths used to be the number one cause of death for teenagers. Now, it’s firearms.

Experts tell us suicide accounts for about 60% of gun-related fatalities, another important reason to keep guns safe and secure.

Watch part 1: Detroit police say teen gun violence is on the rise

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Morgan is a Digital Editor and has been with WDIV since May of 2022. She is also studying political science and communications at Wayne State University.