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Epidemiology of Crime Guns: Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2016
8 pages

This report summarizes the findings of research that improves the understanding of gun markets and suggests ways that information can be used by law enforcement to limit access to guns by those who will use them to commit a crime, and it also reports on the authors' current research, which used trace data from three jurisdictions that vary in the degree to which they have established regulations to restrict gun sales, as well as survey data from current inmates who had committed a violent crime in two of the three jurisdictions.


The overall findings of the authors' literature review and their own research yielded three findings: 1) Gun recoveries and trace successes varied across jurisdictions, and in some locations by crime; 2) Gun regulations were associated with the proportion of guns purchased in-state and time to gun recovery, but not with the likelihood of the first legal purchaser and the offender being the same person, or with the likelihood of the gun being bought by a straw-purchaser; 3) First legal gun owners report that guns that end up being used in a violent crime are stolen from them or they sell them to the offenders or someone else; and 4) Imprisoned gun offenders cited stealing or buying on the street the guns they used in their crimes. This report suggests that law enforcement could better understand the nature of their illegal gun markets if they had better trace data and used additional data similar to what the authors used in their research (tracking and surveys) to target their efforts. Once gun markets are better understood, law enforcement agencies would be better prepared to use programs of proven effectiveness and mount controlled research to test new approaches for disrupting illegal gun markets.

Date Published: September 1, 2016