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Firearms and Violence, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 1994
7 pages
Publication Series
This paper reviews the current status of research and evaluations concerning firearms and violent crime, as reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences Panel on the Understanding and Control of Violent Behavior.
Results revealed that firearms are used in about 60 percent of the murders committed in this country, and attacks by firearms injure thousands of others. Young people, especially young black men, are at particularly high risk of being murdered with a firearm. In robberies and assaults, victims are far more likely to die when perpetrators have guns than when they have another weapon or are unarmed. Greater availability of guns increases the rates of murder and gun use during the commission of felonies, but does not appear to affect general violence levels. Self-defense is the reason most often cited for acquiring a gun, but it is unclear how often these guns are used for self-protection against unprovoked attacks. The latest available data also reveal that those who use guns in violent crimes rarely purchase them directly from licensed dealers; most guns used in crime have been stolen or transferred between individuals after the original purchase. The findings of evaluations indicate that several kinds of laws can reduce gun murder rates when they are enforced: prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons, extending sentences for robbery and assault when a gun is used, and restrictive licensing requirements for handgun ownership. Where local support exists, law enforcement efforts should place priority on disrupting illegal gun markets, reducing juveniles' access to guns, and close police-community cooperation. Chart and reference notes

Date Published: December 1, 1994