The Role of Gun Supply in 1980s and 1990s Urban Violence

Category: Crime, Firearm Availability, Homicide, Men, Youth|Journal: Working Paper (full text)|Author: G Williams, W Bartley|Posted On: January 01,2018

Youth violence, particularly among young black males in urban areas, increased radically in the late 1980s and early 1990s and then began to fall. One explanation for this has been the expansion of crack markets in the 1980s; to the degree that increased gun access among young black males was believed to play a role, the implicit assumption was there was a demand shock in gun markets. We provide a range of novel evidence that instead there was a positive supply shock in the market for guns, particularly those in the lowest price range (under $250 in 2018 dollars). Local proxies of gun access can predict changes in local violence as well or better than measures of crack market activity, while proxies for crack are more closely correlated with other measures of disorder.