Determining the Rate at Which Legal Handgun Purchasers Become Ineligible to Possess the Weapon They Purchased

Mona A. Wright, University of California, Davis
Garen Wintemute, University of California, Davis

The California Department of Justice estimates 170,000 firearms are in the hands of individuals who legally purchased them and because of subsequent criminal activity, become ineligible to possess these weapons. Using a retrospective cohort study we determine the rate of ineligibility for gun ownership among handgun purchasers. We identifed 7257 individuals age 21-49 who legally purchased a handgun in California in 1991; 2,762 with a criminal record at the time of purchase and 4,495 without. Cohort members were followed for 5 years after purchase for subsequent criminal activity that would disqualify them from firearm ownership. We calculated incidence rates and conducted a survival analysis. Among those with a criminal history at the time of purchase, 6.9% (189) people became ineligible to own a firearm within 5 years of purchasing a handgun. Of the individuals with no history of criminal activity at the time of purchase, 1.2% (46 people) became ineligible. The rate of new ineligibility was 2.32 per 100,000 person years for those with a criminal history and 0.40 per 100,000 person years for those without. Roughly 8% of our study subjects who legally purchase a handgun become ineligible to possess that weapon with 5 years of purchase.

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Updated 05/20/2006