Keep the Kids Inside? Juvenile Curfews and Urban Gun Violence

Gun violence is a chronic problem in the United States. Nationally in 2012, 11,622 people were killed by assault with a firearm. Many more people are injured by guns each year: in 2011, 693,000 individuals were treated in emergency rooms for injuries due to assaults by firearms and similar mechanisms. Gun violence takes a particularly large toll on young people: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), homicide accounted for 18 percent of deaths for males aged 15-19 and 20-24 — more than for any other age group. For black males, homicide is the leading cause of death for those age groups, explaining 48 percent and 50 percent of deaths, respectively. The vast majority of these are gun-related homicides.

Thus policies to reduce lethal violence must determine how to prevent young men from shooting each other. This has been a difficult question to answer and attracts a great deal of academic and policy attention. In general, violence-prevention policies can work either by deterring violence or by incapacitating would-be offenders. If offenders have high discount rates and are unlikely to be deterred by future punishments, then limiting their opportunities to commit crime could be the most effective crime-prevention policy. With this in mind, cities across the United States have enacted, and actively enforce, juvenile curfews. Studies on a curfews effectiveness are imprecise, but show that an early curfew (11 p.m.) decreases gun violence.

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