Strategies for Disrupting Illegal Firearms Markets: A Case Study of Los Angeles

Strategies for Disrupting Illegal Firearms Markets: A Case Study of Los Angeles

Strategies for Disrupting Illegal Firearms Markets: A Case Study of Los Angeles

Strategies for Disrupting Illegal Firearms Markets: A Case Study of Los Angeles

Synopsis

Could a data-driven, problem-solving approach yield new interventions to disrupt local, illegal gun markets serving criminals, gang members, and juveniles in Los Angeles? Law enforcement can analyze patterns in crime-gun data to trace illicit firearm acquisition, use community-based interventions to stem the illegal flow, and use retail ammunition-purchase records in identifying prohibited firearm possessors.

Excerpt

In 2001, with the support of a grant from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), rand initiated a research and program-development effort to understand the nature of illegal gun markets operating in the city of Los Angeles, California. the primary goal of this project was to determine whether a data-driven, problem-solving approach could yield new interventions aimed at disrupting the workings of local illegal gun markets serving criminals, gang members, and juveniles in Los Angeles. There were three key components of this research and development project. First, we developed a software tool designed to support strategic analyses of firearm-information resources, such as Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) firearm-trace data, California state handgun-purchase and -sale data, and local Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) gun-crime data by identifying key illicit pathways through which criminals acquire guns. Second, these data-analysis techniques and illegal gun– market research findings were incorporated into an interagency working-group process that developed a community-based intervention intended to reduce the illegal flow of guns to Los Angeles–area criminals. Key participants in the working-group process included atf, lapd, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, state and city prosecutors, academics, and other criminal-justice agencies. Third, we conducted an analysis of ammunition purchases in the target area of Los Angeles to highlight the possibility of additional analyses and interventions.

In this introductory chapter, we give some background on supply-side strategies for intervening in the illegal firearm market. Then we give a brief overview of the accomplishments of this project.

Disrupting Illegal Firearm Markets

In the United States, there are some 258 million privately owned firearms, including 93 million handguns (Wellford, Pepper, and Petrie, 2005). This immense stockpile serves as a source of guns for juveniles and other prohibited persons, who may obtain them through a variety of means. Although there is much debate about proper gun-control measures to reduce legal access to guns, insufficient emphasis is placed on the fact that only about one of every six firearms used in crime was legally obtained (Reiss and Roth, 1993–1994). Unlike narcotics or other contraband, the illegal supply of guns does not begin with illegal smuggling or in clandestine factories. Virtually every crime gun in the United States starts out in the legal market. Clearly, there is a problem with illegal gun acquisition from regulated and unregulated legal sources, and there is a corresponding need to intervene in these markets to make it more expensive, inconvenient, or legally risky to obtain firearms for criminal use.

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