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Sources of Crime Guns in Los Angeles, California

NCJ Number
Policing Volume: 21 Issue: 2 Dated: 1998 Pages: 220-239
J Wachtel
Date Published
20 pages
This study identified the sources of guns used in crimes in Los Angeles, California.
The data set consisted of 5,002 guns recovered by police agencies in the Los Angeles area between 1988 and 1995. Eighty- two percent (n=4,079) were recovered by Los Angeles police, and the remainder were seized by police agencies in nearby communities. Analysis of this pool yielded data on the kinds of guns seized, the circumstances of their recovery, and the characteristics of their possessors. Traces that were successfully completed also provided information on gun dealers and gun buyers and contributed insights into patterns of illicit purchase and redistribution. The study also examined case files for each domestic gun diversion investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents in the Los Angeles metropolitan area between 1992 and 1995. The findings show that a few corrupt licensed dealers, most of them working from their homes, and unlicensed vendors are responsible for an abundant number of recovered guns, both as a proximate source and as a conduit to others. Since traffickers often acquire guns from distributors, the monitoring of suspicious purchases at wholesalers, particularly by home and hybrid dealers, may prove helpful. Similar techniques could be applied at the retailer level to counter the use of "straw" buyers (one person purchasing a gun at the request of another) by street vendors. Whatever methods are used, a concerted effort to root out the individuals and firms who engage in commercialized gun diversion would reduce criminals' access to guns. 6 tables, 11 notes, and 40 references


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