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Violence among adolescents is a critical public health issue in the U.S.: homicide was the second leading cause of death among persons ages 15-24 in 2002.

Results from the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance reveal that 17.1 percent of students had carried a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or club, on at least one of the preceding 30 days; just over 6 percent had carried a gun. Males were significantly more likely to carry a weapon (26.9 percent) than females (6.7 percent). The percentage of students that carry weapons steadily decreased from 1991 to 1999, then began to level off at around 17 percent.

Some high school students also reported carrying weapons to school. In 2003, 6.1 percent of students reported carrying a weapon on school property in the past 30 days—nearly a 50 percent decrease since 1993. Despite this decline, more than 9 percent of students were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property at some point during the 12 months before the survey. In addition, over 5 percent of students did not go to school in the preceding 30 days because they felt unsafe at school or while traveling before or after school. Younger students and non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic students expressed the most concern for their safety.

Graph: High School Students Who Carried a Weapon in the Past 30 Days[d]

Graph: High School Students Who Were Threatened or Injuured with a Weapon on School Property[d]