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Disrupting Gun Transfers: Final Summary Overview for National Institute of Justice

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2018
11 pages
This is the Final Summary Overview of a research project intended to provide the first evaluation of the long-term outcomes of a program (the "letter" program) aimed at reducing crime with straw-purchase guns, i.e., guns purchased lawfully and then unlawfully sold to someone who uses it in a crime.
Under this program, handgun purchasers are sent a letter during their 10-day waiting period between the gun purchase and taking possession of it. The letter advises the purchaser that the new weapon has been registered to her/him and that failure to report any transfer or loss of the weapon with the mandated state agency could result in the owner's liability for any future misuse of the gun. The intent of the program is to deter legal buyers of guns from transferring them to a prohibited possessor who may use the gun in a crime. The current evaluation focused on the impacts of a Los Angeles citywide letter program and a cost-benefit analysis. The program sent letters to all handgun purchasers living in zip codes within Los Angeles from January 1, 2013 through September 1, 2015. The evaluation examined the effect of the letter program on firearm violence city-wide, and the costs and benefits of the program to society were estimated. Evidence on the effects of the letters was ambiguous, largely because the data and procedures that had to be used in conducting the analysis were less powerful than originally planned; however, program costs were sufficiently low that even a small and statistically difficult-to-measure impact on firearm crime could deliver good value for money spent on the program. 2 tables and 1 figure