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Felons Who Attempt To Purchase Guns: A Study of Prior and Subsequent Criminal Involvements

NCJ Number
Date Published
28 pages
Publication Series
This study examined data on felons who attempted to purchase firearms from establishments governed by Florida's "instant" background check system for firearm purchases, with attention to prior and subsequent criminal involvements of such felons.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement made available to researchers a data file on prospective purchasers of firearms who were rejected based on criminal history. The file included basic demographic information on the prospective purchaser and on the attempted purchase. A separate file contained information on the criminal histories of the purchasers. Criminal history information was current as of a fixed date, so the length of the follow-up period varied with the date of attempted purchase. The data on attempted purchases by offenders covered 1991 to 1996. Findings showed that criminal history background checks prevented 25,919 gun purchases by felons over the 6 years. During the first 3 years (1991-94), the number of attempted gun purchases remained relatively constant at about 4,700 per year. In subsequent years, the number of attempted purchases declined; in 1996 there were approximately 3,500 attempted purchases. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that after some "break-in" or "learning period," offenders adapt their behavior to legislation. The data did not indicate whether or not felons searched out alternative sources for guns. Offenders who attempted to purchase a gun had, on average, four prior arrests. A notable proportion had 10 or more arrests. Approximately one out of seven offenders who attempted to purchase a gun was later arrested within 1 year. Youthfulness, a greater number of prior arrests, and close proximity of the last arrest to the attempted purchases were associated with greater chances of arrest. An enforcement policy that focuses on offenders who pose the greatest chance of violating the law in the future is both efficient and manageable. 8 figures, 1 table, and 25 notes

Date Published: January 1, 2000