207758 Potential effects of expanding firearm prohibitions in the U.S.: Analysis of data from a national survey of prisoners

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 2:45 PM

Katherine A. Vittes, PhD, MPH , Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Daniel W. Webster, ScD, MPH , Center for Gun Policy and Research, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD

Federal law limits firearm purchase and possession by certain individuals (e.g., minors, felons). Little research, however, has examined the potential effects of broadening these exclusion criteria.


Data come from the Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities, a nationally representative survey of 14,499 state prison inmates. The survey includes questions on inmates' current and prior offenses; substance use, abuse, and treatment; and personal characteristics. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression analyses will determine the: 1) proportion of respondents using a firearm in a crime, 2) relationship between use of a firearm and prior criminal history; and 3) proportion of respondents who could not legally purchase a firearm if existing exclusion criteria were expanded to include various misdemeanor crimes.


Overall, 7% of the respondents used a gun while committing their most recent offense. Thirteen percent were incarcerated for homicide or attempted homicide; nearly one third of these offenders used a gun when committing that offense. Most also had substantial prior criminal histories: half had two or more previous arrests, 40% served time for any prior crime, and 10% served time for a violent crime. Bivariate analysis found few differences in criminal and substance abuse history among homicide offenders who did and did not use a firearm. This question will be further explored in logistic regression analyses, as will the proportion that would have been prohibited under a range of exclusion criteria.


Study findings will allow policymakers to consider the potential benefits of expanded exclusion criteria for firearm purchase.

Learning Objectives:
Identify the proportion of state prison inmates who would be a prohibited firearm purchaser under a range of exclusion criteria

Keywords: Firearms, Homicide

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have researched and published several peer-reviewed articles on firearm violence.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.