Teens see little progress in effort to stop gun violence

March 1, 2010 2:51:40 PM PST
For 10 years an organization called UCAN has surveyed American teens to get their feelings about gun violence. Monday as the tenth report was released, it is apparent young people find there has been little progress to stop the violence, and they are still not safe in their schools or the streets or in their own homes.

"We can't just sit and wait for another victim, a brother, sister or friend to be lost to this vicious cycle of gun violence," said Chase Larkin, UCAN.

Larkin is talking about their survey showing 34 Chicago-area students who have been shot to death this school year, including 15-year-old Nathaniel Maxon, shot to death near his own home on Chicago's West Side, or 16-year-old Roger Escalante, killed at a friend's home in an incident in which two other teens wounded. These shootings happened in February of this year.

The UCAN teen gun survey this year shows 26 percent of nearly 700 teens questioned know someone who was shot. That number goes up to more than 40 percent when answered by African-Americans. Thirty-three percent fear being shot and one-third of teens questioned are afraid they themselves will be shot.

"The number one fear of Chicago elementary students is fear of getting shot," said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, (D) Illinois.

Monica Sanders, who participates in UCAN, wants to be a mortician when she finishes school. But there is one thing she does not want to do.

"I do not want to be burying our children," said Sanders.

A major concern found in the survey is that teens such as Escalante and his friends were shot by guns that are readily available on the streets of the city and suburbs.

In fact, more than one-third of teens felt they could get possession of a gun if they really wanted to. The number is higher among teen boys.

The survey concludes with a plea to adults and politicians to find ways to curtail the availability of guns.

"We ask adults, meet us halfway so we can walk down the street and not be shot," said Larkin.

For more information about the survey or the organization go to ucanchicago.org.