Ninety Percent of Guns Used in Crime Not Obtained From Gun Stores or Gun Shows

Mariel Alper, Ph.D., Lauren Glaze, BJS Statisticians

January 9, 2019    NCJ 251776

Presents statistics that describe firearm possession of state and federal prisoners who were serving a sentence in 2016. The report describes firearm possession during the crime for which prisoners were serving time and by type of offense; how the firearm was used during the crime; type of firearm possessed; and methods, sources, and processes of obtaining the firearm. Findings are based on BJS’s 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI), formerly known as the Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities. The SPI self-report data were collected through face-to-face interviews with a national sample of state and federal prisoners.

Highlights:

  • About 21% of state and 20% of federal prisoners said they possessed a gun during their offense, while 79% of state and 80% of federal prisoners did not.
  • About 29% of state and 36% of federal prisoners serving time for a violent offense possessed a gun during the offense.
  • About 1.3% of prisoners obtained a gun from a retail source and used it during their offense.
  • Handguns were the most common type of firearm possessed by state and federal prisoners (18% each); 11% of all prisoners used a handgun.
  • Among prisoners who possessed a gun during their offense, 90% did not obtain it from a retail source.

Summary (PDF 222K)
Full report (PDF 431K)
Data tables (Zip format 7K)

Source: https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=6486


The Department of Justice just updated its decades-old study asking criminals where they got the guns they used in committing the crime for which they were currently incarcerated. After asking 287,000 prisoners in 2016 where they got the gun they used, 90 percent of them “did not obtain it from a retail source” and less than one percent obtained it from a gun show.

Half of them obtained their firearm from the “underground” market, while just six percent said they stole it. The survey reported that “most of the remainder had obtained it from a family member or a friend, or as a gift. Seven percent had purchased it under their own name from a licensed firearm dealer.”

In other words, current or pending laws banning “assault weapons” (usually variants of the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle) almost totally miss the mark, as nearly every crime was committed using a handgun. Also, those closing the so-called gun show loophole miss the mark as well.

The survey’s results are very similar to the study the DOJ completed back in 1997. Back then, 93 percent of criminals obtained the guns they used illegally, with “straw buyers” — a person buying a gun for another so he won’t have to undergo a background check — representing 40 percent, another 40 percent being obtained from “street dealers (i.e., the black market), and 13 percent being stolen. That left just seven percent obtained legally: five percent from pawn shops or gun dealers, one percent at flea markets, and less than one percent from gun shows.

These two surveys must be highly frustrating to Samuel Bieler, who wrote for the left-liberal Urban Institute in 2013, “Until we know more about the sources of crime guns, it will be difficult to devise and build consensus for effective, targeted policies that reduce unlawful access to firearms.” It seemed logical: “If we can determine which source is the most important, lawmakers can design policies to help keep weapons out of criminals’ hands.” He concluded: “If we are to develop and implement new strategies to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, we need more research on how they got those guns in the first place.”

Well, now that Bieler has that research, what is he going to do with it? As Robert Verbruggen noted in National Review, “it would be very difficult to regulate most of these transactions — the underground market is by definition unregulated; people in criminal social networks [“friends and family”] are not going to follow gun laws; theft is already illegal; [and] licensed gun dealers already conduct background checks.”

Thus, one is faced with the conclusion that gun laws enacted allegedly to reduce violent crime by removing illegal weapons from criminals so they can’t use them in committing crimes are not only completely useless, but they deliberately and intentionally target law-abiding citizens instead. Under the guise of fighting crime and “keeping guns out of the hands of criminals,” laws are passed that make it increasingly difficult for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

The question then becomes “Why?” Why the continuing push to disarm private citizens while calling laws that do so attempts to disarm criminals? The answer: Those laws aren’t about “gun control” after all — they’re about “people control.”

Source: The New American


An Ivy League graduate and former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American magazine and blogs frequently at LightFromTheRight.com, primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at badelmann@thenewamerican.com.

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