Firearms are the most commonly used weapon in youth homicide in the United States, making access to guns is an important issue to address in violence risk assessments.

Homicides are:

  • Most often committed by males

  • Usually committed against friends or acquaintances

  • Mostly one-on-one (vs mass shootings)

Risk factors for homicide include:

  • Young male

  • Unemployed, impoverished

  • Access to firearms

    • Parents of adolescents should be counseled on safe handling and limiting access to weapons (e.g. keeping weapons unloaded and locked away, storing ammunition and weapons separately)

  • Substance abuse

  • Antisocial personality disorder

  • History of violence/criminality

  • History of child abuse

  • Impulsivity


Providers should mitigate risk factors and increase protective factors.

Ways to increase protective factors:

  • Refer to mental health programs that promote resilience and healthy coping

  • Encourage connection to family and community

Other Considerations

A family history of mental illness increases risk for the development of mental illness, but is not as strongly associated with homicide as firearm access.

Excessive exposure to violent media is a risk factor for increased aggression and a decreased likelihood of intervening when witnessing violence. Participation in violent sports (e.g. martial arts) is not a consistently recognized risk factor.

Similarly, exposure to violence can increase the risk of future aggression, and substance use (especially alcohol) is a risk factor for violence, but both are not as strongly associated with homicide as firearm access.