To better understand the workings of illicit gun markets by identifying the characteristics of buyers, sellers, firearms, and transactions that predict whether a gun is used in crime or obtained by an illegal possessor subsequent to purchase.
The study employed multivariate survival analysis utilizing data on nearly 72,000 guns sold in the Baltimore metropolitan area from 1994 through 1999 and subsequent recoveries of over 1,800 of those guns by police in Baltimore through early 2000.
Adjusting for exposure time, guns sold in the Baltimore area had a 3.2 % chance of being recovered by police in Baltimore within 5 years. Guns were more likely to be recovered if: they were semiautomatic, medium to large caliber, easily concealable, and cheap; the buyers were black, young, female, living in or close to the city, and had previously purchased guns that were recovered by police; the dealer making the sale was, most notably, in or near the city and had made prior sales of crime guns; and the gun was purchased in a multiple gun transaction. The adoption of a law regulating secondhand gun sales in Maryland did not appear to affect the likelihood of a gun’s recovery, though the extent of the law’s enforcement is unclear.
Risk factors identified in this study could be used to guide gun trafficking investigations, regulation of gun dealers, and the development of prevention efforts for high-risk actors and areas. The results also provide some support for policies that regulate particular types of firearms and transactions. Limitations to the study and directions for future research are discussed.