Online Program

Association between firearm sales regulations and the source of handguns to criminal offenders in the United States

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 2:54 p.m. - 3:06 p.m.

Katherine Vittes, PhD, MPH, Center for Gun Policy and Research, 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
Jon S. Vernick, JD, MPH, Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Background. Federal law and many state laws prohibit certain categories of high-risk individuals from purchasing or possessing firearms. The effect of these prohibitions on sources of firearms for individuals who are and are not prohibited has been the subject of scant research.

Methods. Data came from the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities. Using cross-tabulations and chi-square statistics, we compared sources of handgun acquisition of incarcerated gun offenders who were legally prohibited from possessing handguns with those who met no legal disqualifications. We used multinomial logistic regressions to examine the association between state gun sales regulations and offenders' sources of handguns after controlling for demographics, and state-level gun ownership and burglary rates.

Results. The sample consisted of 1,397 gun offenders. Although criminals tend to prefer new guns from trusted sources such as licensed retailers and friends/family, our findings suggest that more stringent state gun sales regulations force prohibited gun offenders to acquire their handguns from less trusted sources. Prohibited offenders in states requiring background checks for all gun sales had more than a two-fold increased odds of obtaining a handgun from the street/black market (aOR=2.38), and prohibited offenders in states with permit-to-purchase licensing with fingerprinting had an almost four-fold increased odds of handgun acquisition via theft (aOR=3.79). Non-prohibited offenders in states requiring universal background checks had an almost four-fold increased odds of acquiring handguns via theft (aOR=3.76).

Conclusions. Prohibited status and state guns laws are associated with gun offenders' sources of handguns. Findings can influence evidence-based policy development.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Identify two differences in handgun sources between prohibited and non-prohibited gun offenders Describe the way in which state-level firearm sales regulations are associated with gun offenders’ sources of handgun acquisition.

Keyword(s): Firearms, Crime

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Daniel Webster is Professor of Health Policy and Management and directs the PhD program in Health and Public Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where he directs the Center for Gun Policy & Research. He has published numerous articles on gun violence and policies to prevent it.
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.