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MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 1997202/307-0703



WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) today released a study, Illegal Firearms: Access and Use By Arrestees, which reveals that a higher percentage of arrestees than individuals in the general population have owned a firearm in the past and, more importantly, that illegal firearms are readily available and are used to commit crime. Those arrestees most likely to have easy access to guns are drug sellers and gang members. This study confirms the link between guns and gang members and guns and drug markets.

"We have to break the link between gangs and guns," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "The Brady Law and the ban on assault weapons have kept thousands of guns out of the wrong hands, but we must do more. President Clinton's budget this year also calls for $6 million to target illegal gun markets and shut them down."

Arrestees in 11 major urban areas across the country were interviewed for the study, including Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. Guns are carried all or most of time by 14 percent of the arrestees interviewed. The proportion rises to 20 percent among juvenile males and increases sharply to 31 percent among admitted gang members.

Attorney General Reno called for the study because of her concern about the increase in injuries and deaths attributed to firearms violence since the mid-1980's. NIJ funded the study, which examines the dynamics of the illegal firearms market from individuals who were arrested and booked.

"Easy access, availability and use among arrestees paints a picture of a criminal culture in which the ownership and use of illegal firearms is not only common, but also generally accepted," said NIJ Director Jeremy Travis. "The study's findings underscore the importance of strategies and policies that reduce the availability and use of illegal firearms."

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research arm of the Department of Justice, is the primary federal sponsor of criminal justice research and evaluations of programs to reduce crime. For general information about NIJ, the Internet address is [email protected].

To obtain a copy of the study, please write to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), P.O. Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20849-6000 or call toll free 1-800/851-3420.

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NIJ 97-011

After hours contact: James Phillips at 888/582-6753 (pager)