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Gun Availability and Crime in West Virginia: An Examination of NIBRS Data

NCJ Number
Justice Research and Policy Volume: 9 Issue: 2 Dated: 2007 Pages: 139-164
Stephen M. Hass; Eric Jefferis; John P. Jarvis; Erica Turley
Date Published
26 pages
This study examined the issue of the prevalence of illegal versus legal guns and their impact on reported violent crime in West Virginia collected from the National Institute Based Incident Reporting System (NIBRS).
The findings appear to support the notion that guns are related to elevations in violent crime. Both the legal and illegal gun measures were positively and significantly related to each of the three offenses examined in the study: violent crimes, gun crimes and knife crimes. The analyses identified significant “hot spots” and cold spots of illegal gun availability across West Virginia through the use of spatial analysis tools. Both legal and illegal guns were depicted in pockets of co-occurring criminal incidents rather than a uniform distribution of crime and guns across the State. There was a prevalence of guns throughout the State, with the higher concentrations in the more rural localities rather than the more urban centers. Two areas with high concentrations of stolen guns suggest a modest relationship between crime rates and illegal guns. Legal gun rates (concealed weapon permits) were concentrated in areas other than where the violent, gun, and knife crime rates were found. The highest concentrations of violent crime rate were in the southern part of the State with some high concentrations in other more distant cities. There was relatively low concentration of violent crime in certain areas of the State. While gun crimes are less prevalent and also less concentrated than violent crimes, the rates for gun crimes generally seem to overlay in areas where high concentrations of violent crime were present. The distribution and concentration of knife crimes is also comparable to other types of crimes. The violent crime model showed a significant impact on both legal and illegal guns on violent crime. The gun theft rate has the largest effect in this model compared to its effects in the other models, and exhibits a statistically significant positive effect on the violent crime rate as does the concealed carry rate. Tables, figures, references