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Kids More Exposed to Guns in the South

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RALEIGH — Violent juvenile crime arrest are more prevalent in the South than any other region of the country. Some experts believe that's because of the sheer number of firearms in this part of the country.

Statistics show that 48% of all households in the South have at least one firearm, compared to 36% in the rest of the country. Despite these statistics, experts say this problem is not limited to one region.

First there was a school shooting at a school in Pearl, Mississippi. That was followed by a school shooting in Paducah, Kentucky. On Tuesday, another school shooting took place in Jonesboro Arkansas. All were rural areas where kids used weapons.

"All these events, these tragedies, at the schools have occurred basically in the South," says Marcia Morey of the Crime and Justice Commission. "More rural than urban, and you ask why. Well, there is more access to firearms used for hunting."

But does it really matter where you live? Andrew Needham of Durham says violence can happen most anywhere, even just walking between classes.

Needham's mom doesn't have a gun in her home. She would not let her son handle one, not even for hunting.

"I wouldn't feel comfortable with my children using guns," Needham's mother admits. "Maybe if they were adults then developed an interest in hunting. I wouldn't feel too good then either, but that would be their choice."

The Needham family believes we have a violent society in which guns are all too accessible.

Morey says a possible solution is tougher laws for parents, and making sure youngsters no matter where they are understand the consequences of using a gun.

"It's going to take a lot of education," Morey explains. "We just hope that there won't be more kids impressed by this that are troubled and will resort to finding a weapon."

Statistics also show in 1996, only 93 kids were arrested for homicide in rural counties, compared to nearly 2,000 in cities and about a hundred in suburban areas. Photographer: Greg Clark


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