Evaluating Gun Violence as an Illicit Supply-and-Demand Marketplace

When illegal gun transactions are viewed as a market phenomenon, trafficking and other illegal acquisition activities represent the supply side of the market. Criminal intent and a desire for self-protection primarily drive the demand side.

Disrupting supply tackles the problem of illegal firearms transactions by attempting to stop illegal trafficking or seizing guns before they are used in a crime. Disrupting demand tackles the problem through programs intended to prevent, control, and deter criminals from seeking to acquire and use guns.

NIJ's demand-side studies range from evaluating unique local programs to helping implement national efforts such as Project Safe Neighborhoods.

NIJ has conducted supply-side studies of illegal gun markets, and of programs to disrupt them, in partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other federal and local law enforcement agencies. Over time, researchers found that disrupting supply through suppression programs such as Project Exile or through targeted gun recovery strategies can reduce gun violence.

Gun Recovery

Gun recovery strategies focus on getting guns out of the possession of juveniles and others not allowed to own a gun (e.g., parolees) before they can be used to commit a crime or are stolen or sold illegally on the street. Police use several tactics to recover illegally obtained firearms, such as search warrants, gun buy-backs, consent searches, pedestrian stops, traffic stops, arrests and gun turn-in campaigns.

NIJ gun recovery research has focused mostly on police consent searches and traffic or pedestrian stops in targeted neighborhoods. For example, NIJ researchers evaluated:

  • An innovative program in St. Louis in which police sought parental consent to search their teenagers' rooms for guns.
  • A "directed patrols" program in Indianapolis that sent special police units into high-crime neighborhoods to proactively investigate suspicious activity, which included traffic and pedestrian stops.
Date Modified: June 5, 2013