Prior misdemeanor convictions as a risk factor for later violent and firearm-related criminal activity among authorized purchasers of handguns

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Prior misdemeanor convictions as a risk factor for later violent and firearm-related criminal activity among authorized purchasers of handguns

Category: Behavior, Crime|Journal: JAMA (full text)|Author: C Drake, C Parham, G Wintemute, J Beaumont, M Wright|Year: 1998

Objective

To determine whether authorized handgun purchasers with prior misdemeanor convictions are more likely than those with no criminal history to be charged with new crimes, particularly offenses involving firearms and violence.

Design

Retrospective cohort study.

Setting and Participants

A total of 5923 authorized purchasers of handguns in California in 1977 who were younger than 50 years, identified by random sample.

Main Outcome Measures

Incidence and relative risk (RR) of first charges for new criminal offenses after handgun purchase.

Results

Of the 5923 authorized purchasers, 3128 had at least 1 conviction for a misdemeanor offense prior to handgun purchase, and 2795 had no prior criminal history. Follow-up to the end of the 15-year observation period or to death was available for 77.8% of study subjects and for a median 8.9 years for another 9.6%. Handgun purchasers with at least 1 prior misdemeanor conviction were more than 7 times as likely as those with no prior criminal history to be charged with a new offense after handgun purchase (RR, 7.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 6.6-8.7). Among men, those with 2 or more prior convictions for misdemeanor violence were at greatest risk for nonviolent firearm-related offenses such as weapon carrying (RR, 11.7; 95% CI, 6.8-20.0), violent offenses generally (RR, 10.4; 95% CI, 6.9-15.8), and Violent Crime Index offenses (murder or non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, or aggravated assault) (RR, 15.1; 95% CI, 9.4-24.3). However, even handgun purchasers with only 1 prior misdemeanor conviction and no convictions for offenses involving firearms or violence were nearly 5 times as likely as those with no prior criminal history to be charged with new offenses involving firearms or violence.

Conclusions

Handgun purchasers with prior misdemeanor convictions are at increased risk for future criminal activity, including violent and firearm-related crimes.

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