Who Has Guns and How Are They Acquired?

NIJ's earliest firearms studies uncovered who owns guns, legally and illegally, and how illegal gun trafficking is tied to juvenile gun violence and other crimes such as drug dealing and gang crime. Highlights of these studies:

  • Many juveniles and young adults can easily obtain guns illegally; most claim to carry them for self-defense.
  • A study of persons arrested for a wide range of crimes showed that a higher percentage of arrestees than regular citizens own firearms. Arrestees are also more likely to be injured or killed by gun violence. Within a community, this amounts to an identifiable group of “career” offenders.
  • Surveys of offenders have found that they prefer newer, high-quality guns and may steal or borrow them; most, however, acquire guns “off the street” through the illicit gun market.
Date Modified: June 5, 2013