Gun related Crimes: 1980-2008 (number in percentages)
Victims: 82.6 male, 17.48 female
Perpetrators: 92.1 male, 7.9 female
Homicides by age group
Under 18 = 8.1
18-34 = 59.7
35-49 = 22
50+ = 10.3
Homicides by age group
Under 18 = 12.2
18-34 = 65.9
35-49 = 15.1
50+ = 6.9
Homicides by city size
Large city 59.6
Small city 12.4
Large city 69.6
Small city 13.3
Other pertinent info
Homicides most often committed by handguns
Handguns involved incidents increased sharply in late 80s and early 90s before falling to low in 2008
Homicides with guns other than handguns hit lowest point in 1999 then increased after that
Gang related gun involvemenmt with guns increased from 73% in 1980 to 92% in 2008
source: Cooper, Alexia, and Erica L. Smith. "Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008." Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics (2011).
Most people believe that criminals should not be able to possess firearms lawfully. Yet, our current laws permit many people who have been convicted of crimes—most misdemeanor crimes adjudicated in adult court and felony crimes handled in juvenile court—to possess firearms. Data from two studies of individuals who have committed the most serious crimes indicate that prior to committing these crimes, the perpetrators were not prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law. A recent study, based on surveys of inmates in state prisons, examined the criminal history and ages of persons imprisoned for committing crimes
with a gun in the 13 states with standards for legal gun ownership that do not go beyond those set in federal law. At the time when they committed the gun crime leading to their incarceration, only 27 percent of these gun offenders were prohibited from possessing firearms because they had previously been convicted of a felony. Of these offenders, 60 percent could legally possess guns prior to committing the gun crime that led to their incarceration, including four percent who had prior misdemeanor convictions involving violence and/or firearms, six percent convicted of other misdemeanors, five percent convicted of a felony in a juvenile court, and 13 percent with prior arrests but no convictions.
Some may assume that persons convicted of misdemeanor crimes do not pose a significant threat for committing serious violent crimes. But many suspects charged with felony crimes are convicted of lesser charges as a result of a plea agreement. Research has shown that misdemeanants who were legally able to purchase handguns committed crimes involving violence following those purchases at a rate two to ten times higher than that of handgun purchasers with no prior convictions.29 Handgun purchasers with a history of arrest but no convictions have an equally high or higher risk of committing violent crimes following handgun
purchases as do misdemeanants who legally purchased a handgun.
We believe the evidence above justifies an extension of firearm prohibitions for persons with a history of criminal behavior to include persons convicted of all misdemeanor crimes of violence, as well as individuals who have committed felony crimes as a juvenile. Such prohibitions do not necessarily need to be life-long. Many states have laws prohibiting firearm possession for individuals convicted of serious crimes as juveniles. These restrictions are time limited, based on either the age of the individual or the number of years since the prohibiting conviction.
Central to effective gun policy is being able to identify higher-risk, prohibited persons attempting to buy guns, and to prevent those purchases. The Brady Law is the foundation for the federal government’s attempt to achieve this objective. Before the Brady Law, ―gun control within many states worked on the honor system. Firearm purchasers simply completed a form indicating whether they met any of the exclusion criteria for legal firearm possession, without independent verification of the information provided. With the passage of the Brady bill, gun purchasers buying from a federally licensed firearm dealer are subject to a background check. Since the Brady Law was enacted in 1994, more than 2 million applications to purchase or
transfer firearms were denied because the applicant was prohibited from purchasing firearms.35
Some unknown, but likely larger number of prohibited individuals did not attempt to purchase a firearm because they were legally prohibited.But the Brady Law only requires prospective purchasers to pass a background check if they are purchasing the firearm from a licensed firearm dealer. Data from a nationally
representative sample of gun owners indicate that 40 percent of firearm acquisitions are from individuals who are not licensed gun dealers. Not surprisingly, criminals exploit the private sales loophole. Data from a national survey of inmates indicated that nearly 80 percent of those who had used a handgun in a crime had acquired it through a transaction with an individual who was not a licensed gun dealer. An advocate for closing the private sale loophole† once likened current federal gun policy to an airline security system which offers passengers a choice between submitting oneself to our current screening system, or side-stepping it, and boarding with whatever you would like to bring on board. Should we expect gun laws with the private-sale purchaser screening loophole to be any more effective than voluntary airline passenger
Available research shows the harms of policies which inadequately hold gun sellers accountable for dangerous and illegal practices. In a national survey of armed criminals, illegal purchases from licensed gun dealers (e.g., no background check conducted) were as common as were legal purchases from licensed gun dealers.38 Data from federal gun trafficking investigations indicate that scofflaw gun dealers are the most important channels for diverting guns to traffickers and criminals.
Phone surveys of gun dealers reveal that many are willing to bend or break the law to make a sale. Findings from a study of Chicago’s underground illegal gun markets found that certain retailers, set up just across the city’s border, colluded with traffickers to funnel large numbers of guns to gang members.
Diversion of guns to criminals shortly following retail sales is much less common in states that license retail gun sellers, require careful record keeping that can be reviewed by local or state law enforcement, and where law enforcement agencies conduct regular compliance inspections. Undercover stings to catch retailers facilitating illegal sales, followed by lawsuits against scofflaw gun dealers, also deter the diversion of guns to criminals.
Weaknesses in U.S. gun laws may cause skepticism about whether gun control can work. Yet, a growing body of research shows that common-sense policies adopted at the state and local level succeed in reducing the diversion of guns to criminals. A study using crime gun trace data from 54 U.S. cities examined the association between gun sales regulations and the diversion of guns to criminals. Strong regulation and oversight of licensed gun dealers, regulation of gun sales by private sellers, and permit-to-purchase licensing systems (which require potential gun purchasers to apply for a license directly with a law enforcement agency, where they are typically photographed and fingerprinted) were each associated with significantly fewer guns that were diverted to criminals.
A systematic observational study of gun sales at gun shows found anonymous undocumented firearms sales to be ubiquitous, and illegal straw sales more than six times as common in states that do not regulate private sales, compared with California,which does regulate such sales.
Separate research shows that states which do not regulate private gun sales, adopt permit-to-purchase licensing systems, or have gun owner accountability measures, like mandatory reporting of gun thefts, export significantly more guns used by criminals to other states that have constrained the supply of guns for criminals by adopting strict gun sales regulations.
Broad adoption of these policies could greatly enhance our ability to keep guns from those most likely to use them in crime.