Avoiding Guns, Gangs, and Violence

Safety Tips from the VPI Doctors:
Tips for avoiding Guns, Gangs and Violence

• Tell a responsible adult (parent, neighbor, police officer) if you feel threatened

• Avoid wearing gang colors, particularly in places where gang members hang out

• Avoid obviously dangerous places where there is criminal activity

• Avoid drug use

• Avoid alcohol use

• Avoid confrontations

• Don't be a bully

• Participate in positive activities and get home at a reasonable hour

What You Can Do To Avoid Gangs and Help Solve the Problem:

Find positive ways to spend your time and energy.
Many teens join gangs because they are bored, lacking in purpose, or looking for a way to belong. But there are other options. Sports, recreational, and after-school programs give you a great chance to meet new people, explore new interests, develop new talents and skills, and to connect with people that really care about you and your well-being.

Stay away from gangs and gang members.
Be aware of clothing, colors, and symbols used by gangs in your area, and avoid them. If you look like a gang member or are seen with a gang member, other gangs may mistake you for a real gang member. You have a very good chance of being the innocent target of violent gang behavior.

Do not carry a gun or other weapons. Carrying a gun is not likely to make you safer.
Guns often escalate conflicts and increase the chances that you will be seriously harmed. If someone is threatening you and you feel that you are in serious danger, do not take matters into your own hands. Find an adult you can trust and discuss your fears, or contact school administrators or the police. Take precautions for your safety, such as avoiding being alone and staying with a group of friends, if possible.

Find out about gang activity in your community.
Find out about gangs, gang recruitment, activities, signs, and colors. Then share the information, publishing an article in a school or local newspaper, or talking to community groups, parents, or groups of students.

Join an existing group that is working to get rid of gangs in your school or community, or launch your own effort.
Develop positive activities for teens, report suspicious activity to the police, set up a Neighborhood Watch or a community patrol; let the police know about gang graffiti; or start or join a program to remove gang graffiti.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's National Youth Network web site can connect you with national organizations and provide you with information and resources to take action in your community. Learn about effective programs and what other teens are doing around the nation. Find out how to plan and start a program, run a meeting, develop publications, and work with the news media.

What Families Can Do:

• Be close to your children, express affection, and share your values and high expectations for their success in school and life.

• Discuss, clearly and honestly, tough issues, such as alcohol and illegal drugs, smoking, gangs, and sexual involvement.

• Set and enforce reasonable standards of behavior, and praise good behavior.

• Model positive behavior.

• Monitor after-school time and locate after-school programs and mentors for your children.

• Know who your children's friends are and discourage any involvement with gang members, gang clothing, or gang symbols.

• Seek professional help if you suspect your child may be involved with, or threatened by, a gang.


If you see a gun at a friend's house;

• Get away from the gun.

• Tell a grown-up.

• Tell your friend not to touch the gun.

• Call your mom or dad and/or go home.

If you're in a house and hear gunshots;

• Duck and cover.

• Stay away from windows.

If you're outside and you see a gun;

• Do not touch the gun.

• Leave the area right away.

• Tell your parents or an adult.

Talk About How To Not Get Into Fights; Help Your Child Think Of Non-Violent Ways To Solve Problems.


If you're at school and a friend or another student takes out a gun;

• Don't touch the gun.

• Try to get away safely.

• Tell an adult whom you trust.

• Tell your friend that you don'tt want to be around guns because someone could get hurt or killed.


If a friend carries a gun;
It puts you in danger. Too many things can go wrong, especially if there are drugs and/or alcohol involved, or if there's an argument. The result can be deadly. The best thing to do is separate yourself from any person with a gun. About 80 percent of people killed with a gun knew the person who pulled the trigger. Make sure your friend knows you're not stupid enough to think that carrying a gun is cool.

If you feel you are in danger and think about getting a gun for protection;
Understand that you can protect yourself in other ways. When someone carries a gun, it is more likely to be used against him or someone he knows rather than against an unknown attacker. Walk in well lit areas after dark and avoid walking alone; take a self defense class; carry a personal/body alarm.

To stay safe;
Avoid people and places where you suspect violence might flare up easily, such as parties where there will be a lot of drugs and alcohol or "hang out" areas where violence has erupted before.

Have willpower.
If you become involved in a conflict, refuse to resort to violence as a means of resolving it. Learn about conflict resolution and mediation — take a course, then teach your friends.

It may be difficult to talk to teenagers about a subject like this. Here are some suggestions that may make it easier to discuss guns and gun violence:

• Take a firm stand, but don't be self-righteous and overly judgmental.

• Be patient. Don't rush it.

• Learn from them about their experience, feelings and knowledge about gun violence.

• Be persuasive rather than demanding and overbearing.

• If they tell you something in confidence, keep it confidential. If you feel that you can't, let them know before you pass on the information.

• Remember that it is especially important to protect the anonymity of someone who has told you about a gun-related incident.

Some discussion questions you might use with teenagers:

• Do they know or have they heard about anyone who has been shot? What happened?

• Do they know about kids at school having guns or being involved in violent activities? What are these kids like? What happened?

• What are their own fears and opinions about guns?

• Have they ever been approached by anyone to buy a gun? How did they respond? How did they feel?

• Have they ever seen a real gun? How did that feel and under what circumstances did this occur?

• Do they feel any pressure to get involved with gun activity?