Part of a special section on youth violence and gun possession. The writer examines three dimensions of the juvenile firearms use epidemic of the period since 1985. He explores the factual foundation for concerns regarding increasing youth gun use, comparing recent trends with previous patterns and discussing some of the ways that present conditions are without precedent for students of firearms violence and of youth crime. In addition, he considers some of the data that are necessary for making intelligent choices when designing countermeasures to minors' misuse of guns and offers best guesses, given that most of the required data are unavailable at present, about the peculiar circumstances of guns and adolescents in the 1990s. Finally, he demonstrates that the same qualities of irresponsibility that exonerate laws that prohibit minors from obtaining weapons that are freely available to adults should also restrict the amount of punishment that can be meted out to those young offenders who violate the ban.

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