DES MOINES, Iowa — The number of guns officers are recovering from young people across the city has increased over the last few years, according to the Des Moines Police Department.
"When you look at the number of firearms that were taken out of the hands of kids who are 17 or younger, that number is steadily growing," Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek. "And it's an alarming trend."
Here's what DMPD recorded for guns recovered from those under the age of 18 since 2018:
- 2018: 23
- 2019: 33
- 2020: 14
- 2021: 37
Des Moines police believe the decrease in 2020 was due to a number of factors, including the pandemic and social unrest.
"If you speak to the cops on the street, every single one of them will tell you more and more kids have guns," Parizek said.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives says this trend is not unique to the city.
"The average age of those from whom we're taking guns, as part of a criminal investigation, is getting younger and younger and younger," said John Ham, who works as the public information officer for the ATF Kansas City Field Division, the office that oversees Iowa. "In the state of Iowa, the 2,583 guns that were recovered in 2020, 68 of those were recovered by somebody who was 17 or younger. Then a total of 573 of those guns were recovered by recovered from someone that was 23 years old or younger."
But why is this happening?
Ham and Parizek both agree it's possible the pandemic's complex impact could be a factor. Each stress it's far too early to know for sure.
"We haven't been back to a fully functioning society for that long," Ham told Local 5. "And so it's going to take time to see how those numbers wash out."
Regardless of why this trend is happening, officers are worried if it doesn't start to trend the other way, the city can only expect more tragedies.
"Kids don't make good decisions," Parizek said. "You know, kids aren't supposed to make good decisions. And then you put a gun in their hand, and they're not thinking about that bullet coming out of the barrel, they're not thinking about where it lands. And they're definitely not thinking about how it could change their life, if they're the one pulling the trigger."
"We have lives impacted forever on both sides of that gun. And it's a frightening thing to think about the impact it's going to have on our community long term."
DMPD says over 300 guns have been recovered in 2022 as of this week.