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Predicting Criminal Behavior Among Authorized Purchasers of Handguns

NCJ Number
185550
Date Published
Author(s)
Garen Wintemute M.D.
Agencies
NIJ
Annotation
Using data from the State of California's automated handgun purchase files, the researchers designed a longitudinal study of persons 50 years of age and younger who legally purchased a handgun in California in 1977 to predict how much more likely individuals with a criminal history were to commit a crime than individuals without a criminal history.
Abstract
The researchers accessed criminal history records for the 1977-1991 period to compare the criminal activities of two groups, 6,800 who had a criminal history at the time of the handgun purchase and 2,800 who did not have a criminal history. Results showed, within 1 year of the handgun purchase, 13 percent of the criminal history group had been arrested for a new offense, compared to less than 2 percent of the group with no criminal history. By 15 years after the handgun purchase, almost 38 percent of the criminal history group had been arrested for a new offense, compared to less than 10 percent of the group with no criminal history. The relative risk of a new offense associated with a criminal history did not decrease with age. On the other hand, younger individuals committed new offenses at a rate approximately twice that of older individuals. Further, relative risk did not differ significantly by gender, but some variations were noted among races. The number of prior offenses seemed to be a significant factor in determining relative risk. The relevance of the findings to current efforts to reduce gun violence in the United States are discussed.
Date Created: July 10, 2000