A recent research project by Diane Marano, J.D. (Rutgers School of Law, Camden 1978), Ph.D. (Rutgers Camden Childhood Studies Program 2014) examined pathways into juvenile gun acquisition, the uses and meanings of guns for juvenile offenders, and the ways guns and violence shaped youth identities. In interviews conducted by the former Camden County assistant prosecutor at six juvenile facilities throughout New Jersey, incarcerated youth shared their perspectives on growing up in neighborhoods characterized by poverty, drugs, and violence. The primary pathway to gun acquisition described by study participants was through entry into illegal street activities that exposed the young men to a perceived increased risk of violent victimization, beyond that which pervaded their neighborhoods as a whole. While participants generally reported their initial gun acquisition to be for purposes of protection or defense, many eventually exploited the gun’s potential as a weapon of aggression, particularly for armed robbery, enforcing control over drug-selling territory, or street fighting. Many of the young men expressed a desire to provide for their own needs and wants in order to decrease the financial burden on their struggling mothers. Participants viewed guns as useful for protection, for economic gain, for acquiring or maintaining respect, for feeling powerful, and for enjoyment as consumer objects. Guns also figured in masculine identities and socialization processes. These incarcerated young men, believing simultaneously that “a gun is a key to anything you wanna do” and that “people can’t just walk around with guns like it’s free”, found a space of opportunity in the streets, where they embraced a lifestyle that placed their autonomy and their liberty on a collision course. Insights into juvenile gun possession and use gained through this research are relevant to advancing prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation efforts, as well as in planning broader social and economic policy.