Sources of crime guns in Los Angeles, California

GVPedia Study Database

Sources of crime guns in Los Angeles, California

Category: Crime, Gun Markets|Journal: Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management (full text)|Author: J Wachtel|Year: 1998

Guns. Simply mention the word and by the time the conversation ends it will have probably touched on many of the most pressing social, cultural, legal and economic issues that attend to urban life. Firearms are a hot button topic that has polarized many thoughtful people into two camps: for and against. Opinions, anecdotes and a smattering of academic research have been used as cannon fodder by both sides, each eager to best its opponent with some brave new finding. Guns are our heritage. Guns save lives. Guns are killing our inner cities. And so on.

Guns are not something that we can simply attribute to outsiders. A majority of firearms that are in the USA were also made here (Zawitz, 1995). Between 1983 and 1995, more than 55 million firearms were introduced into the domestic marketplace (ATF, 1994; ATF, 1996b). In 1995, American manufacturers produced 3,808,805 firearms for domestic consumption, including 1,493,327 handguns. An additional 706,093 handguns and 397,311 long guns were imported (ATF, 1996d).

It is difficult to assess – some would say, difficult to exaggerate – the number of guns in circulation. Some estimates place the number of firearms as being equal to the American population. In 1991, the number of handguns in the USA was pegged at 85 million (Kleck, 1991). Given the known rates of manufacture and transfer, such figures are bound to be quickly outdated. In California, more than 600,000 gun transactions were recorded during 1993 alone (California Department of Justice (DOJ), 1995).

During a recent twelve-month period, 99,000 persons were treated for nonfatal firearm wounds in US hospital emergency rooms. More than half of these injuries were due to a criminal act. Firearms caused an additional 37,776 deaths, evenly split between suicide and homicide (Zawitz, 1996). A 1991 survey of State prison inmates indicated that nearly 50 percent had been sentenced for a violent offense. Forty-six percent had carried or used a weapon, predominantly a firearm. One in six inmates said they committed an offense while armed with a gun; half said they had fired it (Beck et al., 1993).

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