Findings reported in this National Institute of Justice research preview are based on data collected by researchers in interviews with more than 4,000 arrestees in 11 cities (Atlanta, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, San Diego, St. Louis, and the District of Columbia) to assess the illegal firearms market.
The research sought information on how offenders obtained firearms, their motives in obtaining firearms, firearm use patterns, and firearm victims. Interim findings were based on interviews with 2,343 adult males, 942 adult females, 753 juvenile males, and 103 juvenile females, conducted during the first 3 months of 1995. Overall, admitted gang membership and involvement in drug sales appeared to be most associated with gun ownership. Specifically, 15 percent of the total sample of arrestees reported they carried a gun all or most of the time. For arrestees who admitted selling illegal drugs in the past year, this figure increased to 25 percent; for those who admitted gang membership, 36 percent. The illegal firearms market played a large role in providing arrestees with access to weapons; 45 percent of those interviewed said this was how they obtained their guns. There was a strong association between carrying a gun and gang membership and between carrying a gun and illicit drug selling. A similar association was found between illegal gun procurement and gang membership or illicit drug sales. Most respondents indicated that it was easy to get firearms illegally, 24 percent admitted using a gun in a crime, and 13 percent said they had stolen a gun. Arrestees experienced high levels of firearm victimization, and their beliefs about firearm use suggested a series of norms that encourage the use of firearms to settle disputes.
Date Published: September 1, 1995