Crime Gun Indicators: Dealer, Firearm, and Transaction Characteristics

Christopher Koper, University of Pennsylvania

Gun violence presents a significant threat to public health in America. A few contemporary policy responses are based on the notions that particular handgun makes and models used frequently in crime (i.e., Saturday night specials) are more suitable for criminal than lawful purposes, that gun dealer who sell many crime guns are suspect, and that buyers who attempt to purchase more than one handgun per month are likely to be illegal traffickers. However, the evidence underlyinh these policies is unclear. Are "crime gun" models simply those that are most widely owned, particularly by lawful users in low income, high crime areas? Are "problem dealers" merely those that have high sales volumes, have been in business for many years, and/or are accessible from high crime areas? And are guns gold in multiple purchase transactions more likely to be used in crime than other guns? Using multi-year gun sales data from one state and national and local data on guns used in crime, this study will examine the likelihood that a gun sold at retail will be subsequently used in crime and whether that likelihood is influenced by characteristics of the gun, the gun dealer, or the transaction. Implications for gun legislation and enforcement will be considered.

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Updated 05/20/2006