Guns are employed in intimidating and threatening others. They are also commonly utilized in self-defense. In every instance where a gun is used, there are concerns regarding the legality and justification of its use. Besides, there are concerns regarding whether the usage is in line in societal interests. The GDAVD (Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development) calls on actors and other influential members of the society to play their role in lessening the global gun violence burden. A good understanding of the principal factors that give room to, support or encourage gun violence is required to inform the strategies applied in reducing the burden.
United Nations reported that armed violence is to blame for over 740,000 deaths annually, with the majority of those deaths, approximately 490,000, happening in countries affected by war. Statistics also show that more Americans die at home as a result of gun violence than the number of American troops in the battlefield. It is also estimated that guns were responsible of about 75% of the homicide deaths that were recorded between 2007 and 2011.
Various sources, including a news report filed by Dorothy Stoneman, the CEO of YouthBuild USA, suggest that poverty is one of the principal factors that promote gun violence (Stoneman, 2013). In United States, economic factors seem to play a significant role in the rate of gun violence. Only two out of the ten cities reported to have the highest rate of gun violence have a poverty rate that is higher than the national poverty rate of 15.8%. Mississippi and Louisiana are among the three poorest cities in the United States, with poverty rates of 24.0% and 19.2% respectively. However, Alaska, the city with the highest gun violence rate, is among the three cities with the lowest poverty rates of 9.2%. Furthermore, there is limited literature regarding the relationship between gun violence and poverty. There is thus a need to establish whether there is a correlation between the two so as to reduce the burden scientifically.
Background of Study
Although the rate of violent crimes incidents in the U.S. has decreased over the years, gun violence has increased and remained significantly high, thus posing a major threat to public health. The United States cities most affected by gun violence include Alaska, Louisiana, and Mississippi with gun death rates of 19.6 per 100,000, 19.1 per 100,000, and 17.7 per 100,000 respectively. The most affected population is the African American youths, especially those who live in high poverty rate urban areas (Cook & Laub, 2002). The resent rise in the umber of cases related to use of handguns by the youth, especially those from minority groups, is believed to be among the major factors that have contributed to the significant rise in the number of gun related homicides, which have been significantly high since early 1990s (Blumstein, 2002). More recent drifts suggest that gun related violence is increasingly taking its toll on minority youth. Youth gun violence has a number of negative impact the society among them being homicide victimization, which has been reported to be among the leading causes of death among the African American youth (CDC, 2006).
An even more cause for concern is the ever-rising number of nonfatal gun related injuries. In 2006, the rate of gun related non-fatal assaults was 6.25 times higher as compared to gun related deaths in the same year (CDC, 2006, 2009a). According to Christoffel (2007), the stable high rate of gun related injuries in the U.S. signifies a public health endemic threat. Statistics suggest that violent crime is more concentrated in high poverty localities. To be precise, poverty is just one aspect of the multi-faceted gun problem facing Americans who are at risk of both gun related violence victimization or offending (Spano & Bolland, 2011). A research body also reported that a good number of young people who live in high poverty areas tend to be exposed to violence of extremely severe nature either as victims or as witnesses (Stein, Jaycox, Kataoka, Rhodes, & Vestal, 2003). For instance, Bell and Jenkins (1993) conducted a study in which they discovered that about 65% of school aged children living in Chicago had witnessed at least one serious assault, and about 33% of the children had reported witnessing a homicide. That is a very tender age for one to be exposed to such level of violence. Additionally, the study revealed that about 11% of school going children living in Chicago had been shot at. Campbell and Schwarz (1996) also conducted a study that seconded Bell and Jenkins findings on young people’s exposure to violence. According to Margolin and Gordis, (2000) the level of an individual’s exposure to violence is among the key predictors of his/her violence behavior. Exposure to extreme violence also acts as a motivator for carrying and using a gun thus increasing the rate of gun violence in poverty stricken areas (Spano & Bolland). Although there are several factors that contribute to high rate of gun violence, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control identified two main concerns in their efforts to counteract youth violence. Among these concerns was increasing the understanding about the relationship between youth violence and poverty. (CDC, 2009b).
The level of violence, especially gun violence in United States is on the rise and so is the level of overall homicide, in which guns are used in about 75% of those. Out gun violence was responsible for about 11,208 of the 16,121 homicides that were reported in the year 2013. Furthermore, there were about nearly 34,000 gun-related suicides in the same year, 2013. From the above statistics, one can conclude that violence is an epidemic and a significant threat to public health.
According to William Julius Wilson homicide rates tend to be higher in communities with many jobless men, a high number of kids being raised without fathers, and the social institutions are disorganized. The relationship between gun violence and poverty has for long been an issue of conjecture. In America, the poor live in overpopulated and crime-packed neighborhoods. Additionally, most children from poor households grow up without fathers in most cases and they also tend to go to poorly performing schools.
Localities with under-developed economies and unsteady governments create opportunities for the acquisition of weapons by individuals. Such localities are characterized by gang activities, which constitute a widespread social concern. In some of the localities, gangs partition, as well as protect, own neighborhoods, armed with diverse weapons (Wright, Rossi & Daly, 1983). Stoneman (2013) contends that youths in localities that are poor have their lives characterized by violence and despair. When the youths rise out of poverty, they tend to give up their violent habits and adopt non-violent cultures. They begin expressing their inherent desire to build productive, as well as positive, lifestyles.
Stoneman (2013) reports that the YouthBuild program has over the years turned violent gang members into positive role models as well as community leaders. The program brings leadership, education, as well as employment, opportunities to hundreds of thousands of youths from poverty-stricken backgrounds each year. The program is supported by thousands of individuals who are committed to its expansion, the government, diverse corporations, and foundations. Cook and Ludwig (1998), Kleck (1997), and Stoneman (2013) suggest that violence, including gun violence, can be diminished radically if governments invest in programs that can end poverty. There is however a need to establish the veracity of this conclusion by determining whether the predisposition of a person to incidences of gun violence is predicated on the level of his or her earnings.
The significance of minimizing, or reducing, poverty is critical for diverse reasons in addition to the plain actuality that populations are suffering. There is a need to confirm the widespread thinking that poverty heightens the degree of violence, especially gun-related violence, in societies. A wide-ranging search for relevant literature has not given rise to a research study determining whether the predisposition of a person to incidences of gun violence can be predicated by the level of his or her earnings. Such a study would give ample insights into the widespread view that poverty exacerbates gun violence.
Purpose of the Study
This study is aimed at establishing whether the likelihood of the exposure of a person to incidences of gun violence is predicated by the level of his or her earnings, as a function of the person’s level of poverty. The GDAVD or other relevant individuals and organizations to identify can use the findings of this study and craft strategies that will curb gun related violence effectively. This would help the general public in avoiding falling victims of gun violence. Additionally, the study will also help in improving the country’s economy. Reducing the rate of gun violence in a city increases the city can achieve its education and employment objectives easily.
Research Questions and Hypotheses
The upcoming study will seek to offer answers to various questions to demonstrate whether the likelihood of the exposure of a person to incidences of gun violence is predicated by the level of poverty that he or she suffers. As well, the answers will give an idea of whether or not gun violence can be diminished radically if governments invest in programs that end poverty. Notably, before filling the survey questionnaire, each respondent will be requested to indicate his or her total yearly earnings on it. The questions are:
- Are individuals with high earnings more likely to use guns in defending themselves than those with lower earnings?
- Are individuals with high earnings more likely to have guns used against their interests than those with lower earnings?
- Does raising the level of earnings for an individual reduce his or her likelihood of experiencing gun-related violence proportionally?
The upcoming study will be guided by the following hypotheses:
H1: Individuals with high earnings more likely to use guns in defending themselves than those with lower earnings.
H2: Individuals with high earnings more likely to have guns used against their interests than those with lower earnings.
H3: Raising the level of earnings for an individual reduce his or her likelihood of experiencing gun-related violence proportionally.
Years of research show that poverty and other similar social disadvantages are closely linked to criminality (Donziger, 1996; and Jencks, 1992). However, the studies are yet to come to a consensus on the extent to which poverty influence violence (Wright, Caspi, Moffitt, & Silva, 1999). There are a number of general literature reviews that examine the relationships between gun violence and different population groups in previous studies (Brown, 2009; Males and Brows, 2013). The study of the micro level influences of personal, environmental, and socio-economic factors on an individual’s predispositions to crime is complemented by the available literature on macro level influences on crime distribution (Pratt & Cullen, 2005). Both the traditional theories and modern analysis suggest that community factors play a major role in determining individual’s criminal behaviors (Cancino, Varano, Schafer, & Enriquez, 2007). Among the strongest predictors of individuals’ criminal behaviors is a collection of dynamics collectively referred to as concentrated disadvantage (Pratt & Cullen, 2005), where poverty being the main measure of this concentrated disadvantage. Individual-level theories and the population-level concepts are not communally exclusive; they can be combined to help us better understand the relationship between human behavior and thir environment (Muftić, 2009).
Three studies on population-level theories that were documented by (Males, 2015) suggest that there is a strong relationship between an individual’s environment and his/her behavior. The three studies used California’s crime statistics to reach to a conclusion that both adolescents’ and young adults’ with low-social economic status tend to have higher rates of crime, including gun violence incidences, as compared to older adults’. Both the 2011 and 2013 studies showed similar results. The crime rates under examination exhibited the conventional age–crime curve, where crime rates were highest in late adolescence and the initial stages of adulthood (Males, 2015). However, when the same study was carried out under poverty-controlled environment, the conventional age–crime curve faded. In the second study, middle-aged adults observed to have a poverty rate similar to that of teenagers were reported to have high offending rates, higher than that of teenagers and young adults. The studies thus concluded that adolescents and young adults usually suffer higher crime rates and higher arrest rates as a result of economic disadvantages and poverty more than they do due to demographic characteristics like age and race.
Epidemiological transitions within populations as the economic statuses of their countries improve (Cook, Ludwig & Hemenway, 1997; Hemenway, 1997). The upcoming study will be based on the epidemiological theory to elucidate why there is a general feeling that poverty exacerbates gun violence even when a scientific study on their correlation is yet to be conducted. The theory will be relevant in examining the exposure of individuals to gun violence by way of self-defense as well attacks.
In the present study, quantitative research methods will be employed. Qualitative methods are mainly used to measure criminological reality, like it is the case with the present study. All data collected will be a numerical representation of real life occurrences; will be referred to as variables. These variables will be examined and the patterns of relation identified. The dependent or outcome variable in this study will be gun violence while the independent/ predictor variable will be poverty level. This is what the researcher is attempting to predict. The researchers ill be trying to predict the level of poverty independent variable is commonly referred to as the predictor variable, and it is the variable that causes, determines, or precedes in time the dependent variable (Hagan).
The study will utilize quasi-experimental research lacks the random assignment to perform the required experiment. The experiment will have an experimental group and a control group, which will be selected by closely matching subjects across the both groups on a number of fundamental variables. The type of quasi-experimental design to be used in this case will be a nonequivalent control group design, where both the experimental and control group both exist even before the experiment (Hagan). The experimental group will be the people living in high poverty level areas while the control group will be the people who do not live in high poverty level areas.
The present study is going to employ a population-level analysis of poverty rate as a crime predictor. The data will be derived empirically from the available macro-level statistics. Another alternative measure that will be used is self-reporting surveys, where participants will be asked about their relationship with offensive or defensive gun crime behavior. This will enable formulation of socio-economic variables, which may have been missed in official crime statistics. The last method that will be considered is the use of census and risk outcome statistics to carry out population-level enquiries into whether poverty increases the number of gun violence cases. Homicide, particularly gun related homicides, and other form of deaths and non-fatal injuries have been expansively cited as representing one of the most serious age-based risk.
Validity of the design
Validity in this case is used to refer to the accuracy of the data collected and whether the instrument used to measure the variables does so effectively (Hagan). While quantitative research methods dominate the criminological study field, they do not come challenge free. The threats to validity of these methods are profound and thus they should be acknowledged. A number of these threats are external while others are internal. The internal threats are concerned with the accuracy of the data collection processes as well as the accuracy of the findings, whereas external threats focus on whether the results collected are applicable to the group under study (Hagan).
Campbell and Stanley suggested that under qualitative data collection methods, a researcher should consider several potential internal threats, including: history, experimental mortality, testing, selection bias, instrumentation, statistical regression, selection maturation interaction, and maturation. One of the main barriers to this study is that social economic status variables, including poverty, are not usually captured or reflected in the arrest statistics. Another challenge that may pose a threat to validity of the data collected is that self-reports tend to be unreliable (Lauritsen, et, al., 200). This may be mainly due to fear of disclosing involvement in illegal activities and incomplete reports.
This section will describe, in detail, the sought types of data, their sources, and the target subjects for the present study. Here I will also articulate the data collection and data analysis methods. All the above will be informed by the pre identified study objectives. This study’s methodological outline aims to record the explanatory context, as well as document the social situations under which both individuals and institutions react or behave in a certain manner. Particularly, it identifies and analyzes the how people’s social economic status influence the gun violence crisis. It will also look into the narrative schema that systematizes the conversational claims and elucidations of the gun violence crisis.
This study will be conducted on the American population. In 2014 it was reported that the average American household income was $53,657, which was similar to that reported in 2013. The poverty rate in the same year was reported to be 14.9% of Americans, about 47 million people, were living below the poverty level. According to statistics, the most affected individuals are the minority group members and women. The level of poverty among the Hispanics and the black Americans was reported to be over 20% individuals living below poverty line. Women, especially the elderly, were also said to be prone to financial struggles with the poverty rate of elderly women being almost double that of men within the same age bracket. Even though more and more women are now a part of the national workforce, where over 61% of women currently in full time employment, women’s earnings were reported to be about 79% of their male coworkers.
Within the urban geography field, Beauregard (2014), provided a convenient methodological design of how specific events filter the public discussions and end up creating favorable conditions for the formation of social economic status that help in shaping the prevailing social relations structures. Beauregard amalgamates the Gramscian hegemony theories with Foucauldian views of discussion as a constitutive practice together in order to prove that public dialogues are more than misrepresentations of social reality, but play a key role in shaping human behavior.
Inline with this, this study will conduct an examination of how social economic status, poverty level in particular, influences individuals’ violence behavior and the impact this has on the rate of gun violence incidents. This study will try to illuminate the available literature to help us make sense of the current gun violence crisis. This will help in the identification of the best gun violence counteractive strategies. Additionally, such an analysis can help expose how individuals can avoid being involved in gun violence either offensively or defensively. As Beauregard (2014), argues, social order is revealed in the manner through which individuals respond to pressure. The American Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy exhibits a unique blend of community logics, military logics, and faith-based violence reducing strategies. The Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy mainly targets the young black men who live in low-income earning communities.
The information that is needed for this study include background information on gun violence in United States, the relationship between social economic status and behavior, gun violence rate in changing poverty rates, and information on the theories and principles relating to poverty and rising violence
This research will mainly use the 2013/2014 gun violence related statistics and poverty information relating to the same period. This is because the information relating to this period is recent enough to capture the current situation and it is also readily available. This study will employ three empirical investigation tools to generate a collection of data and information on which textual analysis, interviews of key informants, and researcher observation chapters will be based. The postscript will have details of all the data sources that will be used to conduct this research as well as information relating to the challenges and limitations faced when applying each of the sources. Below is a detailed analysis of the data collection and analysis methods used during this research.
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