Gun Availability and Violent Crime: New Evidence from the National Incident-Based Reporting System

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Gun Availability and Violent Crime: New Evidence from the National Incident-Based Reporting System

Category: Crime, Firearm Availability|Journal: Social Forces (full text)|Author: L Stolzenberg, S D'Alessio|Year: 2000

Using four years of county-level data drawn from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for South Carolina and a pooled cross-sectional time-series research design, we investigate whether gun availability is related to violent crime, gun crime, juvenile gun crime, and violent crimes committed with a knife. We contribute to the literature by distinguishing between illegal and legal gun availability and by using a comprehensive measure of gun crime. Results show a strong positive relationship between illegal gun availability and violent crime, gun crime, and juvenile gun crime. Little or no effect for the legitimate gun availability measure is observed in any of the estimated models. Findings also reveal that illegal guns have little influence on violent crimes committed with a knife. Offenders seem not to be substituting knives or other cutting instruments when illegal firearms become less available. A supplemental analysis also indicates no evidence of simultaneity between gun availability and violent crime. The strong and consistent effect of illegal rather than legal gun availability on violent crime has important policy implications, because it suggests that greater attention should be directed at devising ways for legitimate gun owners to better secure their weapons.

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