The decision to carry a gun by drug market participants involves consideration of the potential for conflict with other market actors, the need for self-protection, and the desire for reputation and status, among other factors. The objective of this study is to investigate the motives, contingencies, and situational factors that influence criminal gun possession among drug market participants.
Using data on drug offenders from the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities, we estimate design-based logistic regression models within a multiple imputation framework to investigate the influence of drug market features and participant characteristics on gun carrying behavior.
Overall, 7 % of the drug offenders in our sample carried a firearm during the offense for which they were incarcerated. Our multivariate findings indicate that a number of factors condition drug market participants’ propensity for gun carrying, including individual psychopharmacological, economic-compulsive, and systemic factors as well as broader features of the marketplace, including the type of drug market, the value of the drugs, and certain structural characteristics.
Our findings have a number of implications for designing drug market interventions. Directing enforcement resources against emerging, expanding, or multi-commodity drug markets could deter lethal violence more than interventions targeting stable, single-commodity markets. In addition to open-air street markets, targeting higher-level and closed market segments could realize meaningful gun violence reductions. Finally, the expansion of promising focused deterrence strategies that combine deterrence and support initiatives could further deescalate gun violence.