The Effect of Gun Levels on Violence Rates Depends on Who Has Them

Gary Kleck, Florida State University
Tomislav V. Kovandzic, University of Alabama at Birmingham

The most rechnically sound macro-level studies of the effects of gun levels on violent crime rates have found no net impact of general gun ownership levels on crime rates. Such findings, however, may conceal counterbalancing violence-increasing effects of guns in the hands of criminals and violence-reducing effects of guns possessed by predominantly noncriminal victims. We use 1990 data from nearly 900 U.S. cities to test this hypothesis, using factor analysis to create two separate factors combining indicators of criminal or noncriminal gun possession, and two--stage least-squares estimation of crime rate models. Findings are reported for the estimated separate effects of criminal gun levels and noncriminal gun levels on violent crime rates.

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Updated 05/20/2006