Student weapon possession and the "fear and victimization hypothesis": Unraveling the temporal order

Pamela Wilcox, David C. May, Staci D. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Using longitudinal data from nearly 4,000 students across 113 public schools in Kentucky, we attempt to unravel the direction of the relationships between student weapon carrying and various objective and subjective school-crime experiences, including victimization, perceived risk of school victimization, and fear of school victimization. Overall, we found little support for the idea that fear and victimization increase weapon carrying, controlling for other theoretically important predictors, including delinquent offending. While 7th-grade victimization was modestly associated with increased non-gun weapon carrying in 8th grade, high perceptions of individual victimization risk in 7th grade decreased both subsequent gun and non-gun weapon carrying. Fear of criminal victimization in 7th grade did not predict either type of subsequent (8th-grade) weapon carrying. Though fear, risk, and victimization were inconsistent predictors of gun and non-gun weapon carrying, we found strong and consistent support for the effects of weapon carrying on subsequent fear, risk, victimization, and offending. However, contrary to the implications of fear and victimization hypotheses, both gun carrying and non-gun weapon carrying in the 8th grade increased fear of school crime, perceived risk, and actual victimization in the 9th grade. Implications of these findings for the applicability of a "weapons" or "triggering" effect are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-529
Number of pages28
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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