Closer to Guns: the Role of Street Gangs in Facilitating Access to Illegal Firearms

Category: Crime, Firearm Availability, Gun Markets, Injury|Journal: Journal of Urban Health (full text)|Author: A Braga, A Papachristos, E Roberto|Posted On: January 01,2018

Criminal offenders often turn to social networks to gain access to firearms, yet we know little about how networks facilitate access to firearms. This study conducts a network analysis of a co-offending network for the City of Chicago to determine how close any offender may be to a firearm. We use arrest data to recreate the co-offending network of all individuals who were arrested with at least one other person over an eight-year period. We then use data on guns recovered by the police to measure potential network pathways of any individual to known firearms. We test the hypothesis that gangs facilitate access to firearms and the extent to which such access relates to gunshot injury among gang members. Findings reveal that gang membership reduces the potential network distance (how close someone is) to known firearms by 20% or more, and regression results indicate that the closer gang members are to guns, the greater their risk of gunshot victimization.

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