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Criminology Firearms and Violence
by
Ramiro Martinez

Introduction

The study of firearms and violence usually involves research on gun-use differences in crime patterns or the role of firearms in violent crimes or violent deaths, including homicide, suicide, and accidental deaths. Despite recognition that a link exists between firearms and violence, current knowledge on the sources and consequences of this linkage is still being gathered. In part, this is because research is evolving. Most of the data used in these studies are from criminal justice agencies and are limited or require refinement for researchers. For example, some agencies do not always use refined firearm categories, particularly with respect to handguns. Still, although current knowledge is evolving, there is a large body of research on firearms and violence. Criminologists tend to favor examining the impact of firearms, rather than other social and economic factors, on violent crimes such as homicide across countries, cities, or communities. Some social scientists also examine the effects of firearms on violence by exploring the relationships among youth violence, violent crime, homicide, and suicide, including the impact of gun ownership or firearm availability on crime. However one chooses to explore firearms violence research, there are also important criminal justice and public health policy implications to consider in looking at this topic.

Data Sources

There are a number of data sources for information on patterns and trends in firearms and violence. The data usually come in three major types: special data compiled by various criminal agencies, including police and corrections; injury and death statistics from public health agencies, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which runs the Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System; and data from population surveys, including the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey. The General Social Survey also provides information on the extent of gun ownership in the United States. Researchers generally regard data as more reliable when similar patterns and trends are established across data sources.

Youth Gun Violence

The study of gun violence is usually connected to the use of firearms at the national and community level. Blumstein 1995 was one of the first studies to link the rise in youth violence to guns and the illegal drug industry. Wilkinson and Fagan 1996 and Page and Hammermeister 1997 are both essential reading for students and researchers interested in how gun events have risen among young males. Fagan and Wilkinson 1998 provides information gathered from interviews on the importance of gun use in youth violence. Researchers interested in the contribution of firearms to settling disputes among youths will find Kellerman, et al. 1998 to be essential. Excellent recent additions to the research literature include Cork 1999, a study of crack markets and gun diffusion, as well as Braga 2003 and Braga, et al. 2001, two studies of the 1980s and 1990s gun epidemic in Boston.

  • Blumstein, Alfred. 1995. Youth violence, guns, and the illicit-drug industry. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 86.1: 10–36.

    DOI: 10.2307/1143998Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Author contends that the increase in the youth homicide rate is linked to involvement in local drug markets, which has led youths to protect themselves by acquiring more handguns. Available online.

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  • Braga, Anthony A. 2003. Serious youth gun offenders and the epidemic of youth violence in Boston. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 19.1: 33–54.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1022566628159Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Suggests that the youth violence epidemic in Boston was highly concentrated among serious youth gun offenders, rather than a diffusion of guns away from the street drug trade, gangs, and criminally active youth.

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  • Braga, Anthony A., David M. Kennedy, Elin J. Waring, and Anne Morrison Piehl. 2001. Problem-oriented policing, deterrence, and youth violence: An evaluation of Boston’s Operation Ceasefire. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 38.3: 195–225.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022427801038003001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authors contend that the implementation of Operation Ceasefire is associated with decreases in youth homicide victimization, shots-fired calls, and gun assaults.

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  • Cork, Daniel. 1999. Examining space-time interaction in city-level homicide data: Crack markets and the diffusion of guns among youth. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 15.4: 379–406.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1007540007803Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reveals a likely linkage between crack cocaine markets and gun availability. In particular, the diffusion process for crack cocaine in the mid- to late 1980s through early 1990s experienced dramatic growth followed by a similar, slightly slower growth in gun homicides committed by juveniles, with no detectable surge in juvenile nongun homicide activity.

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  • Fagan, Jeffrey, and Deanna L. Wilkinson. 1998. Guns, youth violence, and social identity in inner cities. In Crime and justice, Vol. 24, Youth violence. Edited by Michael Tonry and Mark Moore, 105–188. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    The demand for guns among youth is fueled by a rise in street gangs, an expanding drug markets, high rates of adult violence, and cultural styles of gun possession. The authors report, however, that the effects of guns are mediated by structural factors that increase the demand for guns among youth, including the available supply, culture, and scripts that teach lethal ways to use guns.

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  • Kellerman, Arthur L., Dawna S. Fuqua-Whitley, Frederick P. Rivara, and James Mercy. 1998. Preventing youth violence: What works. Annual Review of Public Health 19:271–292.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.19.1.271Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authors note that the growing use of firearms to settle disputes has contributed to an increase in youth violence and that youth are most often victimized by their peers. They conclude that many prevention programs have been initiated but not properly evaluated.

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  • Page, Randy M., and Jon Hammermeister. 1997. Weapon-carrying and youth violence. Adolescence 32.127: 505–513.

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    Reviews the prevalence of weapon carrying by youth, the reasons they carry weapons for protection, the ways firearms are obtained (e.g., stealing, borrowing from friends/acquaintances, illegal purchasing of guns, youth violence), and efforts to control weapons in schools.

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  • Wilkinson, Deanna L., and Jeffrey Fagan. 1996. The role of firearms in violence “scripts”: The dynamics of gun events among adolescent males. Law and Contemporary Problems 59.1: 55–89.

    DOI: 10.2307/1192210Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors discuss the “Code of the Streets” and the role of guns in achieving instrumental goals of aggressive actions or defensive violence in specific social contexts.

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Firearms and Violent Crime

Research on firearms and violent crime has reemerged. An early review, Cook 1983, found firearm availability contributed to patterns of violent crime. Later, Kellermann, et al. 1996 found that injuries due to firearms varied across cities, while Shapiro, et al. 1998 reported on racial and ethnic variations in attitudes toward guns and violence. Another line of research has focused on how firearms influence the incidence of violent crime. Wintemute, et al. 1998 reported significant differences between handgun purchasers with a criminal history and those with no such history. Researchers interested in the study of the crime drop in the 1990s will find Blumstein, et al. 2000 to be a valuable resource. An essential overview source on firearms and violence is Wellford, et al. 2004. Recent additions to the firearms and violence literature include Griffiths and Chavez 2004, which deals with violence in Chicago, and Hahn, et al. 2005, which provides research on firearm laws and violence reduction.

  • Blumstein, Alfred, Frederick P. Rivara, and Richard Rosenfeld. 2000. The rise and decline of homicide—and why. Annual Review of Public Health 21:505–541.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.21.1.505Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contends that the decline in homicides between the early 1990s and 2000 was caused by changes in drug markets, the police response to gun carrying by young males, an economic expansion, and efforts to decrease general access to guns.

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  • Cook, Phillip J. 1983. The influence of gun availability on violent crime patterns. In Crime and Justice: An Annual Review of Research, Vol. 4. Edited by Michael Tonry and Norval Morris, 49–89. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Reports that the widespread availability of firearms contributes to the criminal homicide rate and influences violent crime patterns, that gun availability facilitates robbery of commercial places and lethal assaults on people who would ordinarily be able to defend themselves, and that the type of weapon used affects the nature of the encounter and its consequences.

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  • Griffiths, Elizabeth, and Jorge M. Chavez. 2004. Communities, street guns, and homicide trajectories in Chicago, 1980–1995: Merging methods for examining homicide trends across space and time. Criminology 42.4: 941–978.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2004.tb00541.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authors report that a weapon substitution occurs in violent neighborhoods proximate to one another and a diffusion effect of street gun–specific homicide increases in neighborhoods bordering the most violent areas. In addition, they found a spatial decay effect in temporal homicide trends, in which the most violent areas are buffered from the least violent by places experiencing midrange levels of lethal violence over time.

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  • Hahn, Robert A., Oleg Bilukha, Alex Crosby, Mindy T. Fullilove, Akiva Liberman, Eve Moscicki, Susan Snyder, Farris Tuma, and Peter A. Briss. 2005. Firearms laws and the reduction of violence: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventative Medicine 28.2 (Suppl. 1): 40–71.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2004.10.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A review of the literature examining the effect of gun laws on violent crimes (e.g., murder, aggravated assault, robbery, and rape), suicide, and unintentional firearm injury. Authors encourage research on bans, acquisition restriction laws, licensing and registration laws, zero tolerance of firearms in schools, and firearms regulation.

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  • Kellermann, Arthur L., Frederick P. Rivara, Roberta K. Lee, Joyce G. Banton, Peter Cummings, Bela B. Hackman, and Grant Somes. 1996. Injuries due to firearms in three cities. New England Journal of Medicine 335.19: 1438–1444.

    DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199611073351906Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Injuries due to firearms, most involving handguns, are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in U.S. urban areas, though the incidence varies greatly from city to city. Available online from NEJM.

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  • Shapiro, Jeremy P., Rebekak L. Dorman, Carolyn J. Welker, and Joseph B. Clough. 1998. Youth attitudes toward guns and violence: Relations with sex, age, ethnic group, and firearm exposure. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology 27.1: 98–108.

    DOI: 10.1207/s15374424jccp2701_11Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authors found that young males, African Americans, and students in the urban public schools had a stronger desire for gun ownership than others. Exposure to firearms—both traumatic and nontraumatic—was also associated with the desire for gun ownership.

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  • Wellford, Charles F., John V. Pepper, and Carol V. Petrie, eds. 2004. Firearms and violence: A critical review. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

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    An essential overview source, with an extensive discussion of the “more guns, less crime” hypothesis.

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  • Wintemute, Garen J., Mona A. Wright, Carrie A. Parham, Christiana M. Drake, and James J. Beaumont. 1998. Criminal activity and assault-type handguns: A study of young adults. Annals of Emergency Medicine 32.1: 44–50.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0196-0644(98)70098-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authors found that handgun purchasers with a criminal history were more likely than those with no criminal history to purchase assault-type handguns. Among handgun purchasers who had a criminal history, purchasers of assault-type handguns were more likely to be charged with new offenses, including offenses involving firearms or violence.

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Homicide and Suicide

Research on firearms and violent deaths, including homicide and suicide, proliferated between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s. One of the first studies of the handgun homicide and suicide literature during this period was Cumming, et al. 1997. Kaplan and Geling 1998 is a report on firearm-related suicides and homicides at the national level, while Lambert and Silva 1998 considers the impact of handgun legislation on suicide. Miller and Hemenway 1999 notes that gun availability is an important risk factor for youth suicide. Recent additions to the research literature include Ludwig and Cook 2000, a study of the implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, and Miller, et al. 2002, a study of guns and violent deaths. Wiebe 2003 and Dahlberg, et al. 2004 both examine the risks of having a gun at home.

  • Cummings, Peter, Thomas D. Koepsell, David C. Grossman, James Savarino, and Robert S. Thompson. 1997. The association between the purchase of a handgun and homicide or suicide. American Journal of Public Health 87.6: 974–978.

    DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.87.6.974Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authors found that a family history of handgun purchase increased the risk of both suicide and homicide. Also, the higher risk of death persisted five years after purchase of handgun, and a strong association was found between risk for homicide and handgun purchase as the number of handguns increased. There was no significant variation by caliber of gun, and these associations did not vary according to income, age, or gender.

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  • Dahlberg, Linda L., Robin M. Ikeda, and Marcie-jo Kresnow. 2004. Guns in the home and risk of a violent death in the home: Findings from a national study. American Journal of Epidemiology 160.10: 929–936.

    DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwh309Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study found that regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.

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  • Kaplan, Marc S., and Olga Geling. 1998. Firearm suicides and homicides in the United States: Regional variations and patterns of gun ownership. Social Science and Medicine 46.9: 1227–1233.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0277-9536(97)10051-XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gun ownership has a stronger impact on firearm suicides than homicides, according to this study, even after stratifying by gender and race. This suggests that reducing the aggregate level of gun availability can decrease the risk of firearm-related deaths.

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  • Lambert, Michael T., and Peter S. Silva. 1998. An update on the impact of gun control legislation on suicide. Psychiatric Quarterly 69.2: 127–134.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1024714619938Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reports that suicide rates typically decrease following the implementation of firearm control laws, and that suicide-prone individuals seldom substitute other means or go outside legal channels for suicide weapons.

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  • Ludwig, Jens, and Philip J. Cook. 2000. Homicide and suicide rates associated with implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. Journal of the American Medical Association 284.4: 585–591.

    DOI: 10.1001/jama.284.5.585Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examination of vital statistics data found that changes in rates of homicide and suicide for treatment and control states were not significantly different, except for firearm suicides among persons aged 55 or older. This reduction in suicides was stronger in states that had waiting periods and background checks than in those that only changed their background check requirements.

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  • Miller, Matthew, Deborah Azrael, and David Hemenway. 2002. Firearm availability and suicide, homicide, and unintentional firearm deaths. Journal of Urban Health 79.1: 26–38.

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    An increased rate of suicide and homicide among women was found between 1988 and 1997 in states with more guns, with the increase accounted for mostly by firearm suicides and homicide. Unintentional firearm death rates were also increased in these states.

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  • Miller, Matthew, and David Hemenway. 1999. The relationship between firearms and suicide: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior 4.1: 59–75.

    DOI: 10.1016/S1359-1789(97)00057-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authors report that more people kill themselves with guns than with all other methods combined. Gun availability is an important risk factor for youth suicide. Most disaggregate findings (e.g., handguns more a risk factor than long guns, gun stored unlocked are greater risk than guns stored locked) are suggestive but not well established.

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  • Wiebe, Douglas J. 2003. Homicide and suicide risks associated with firearms in the home: A national case-control study. Annals of Emergency Medicine 41.6: 771–782.

    DOI: 10.1067/mem.2003.187Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Having a gun at home increases the risk of homicide and suicide, and this risk is higher for women and nonwhites. Further, a gun in the home is a risk factor for homicide by firearm but not by nonfirearm means.

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Cross-National Research

One of the first recent studies in this research area is Lester 1991. Killias 1993 is a comprehensive study on gun ownership, homicide, and suicide across countries. Krug, et al. 1998 looks at the obstacles researchers face in gathering firearm death data in thirty-six countries. Excellent additions to the cross-country firearm violence literature include Miron 2001, a cross-national study of violence, guns, and drugs, and Hemenway, et al. 2002, a study of firearms and female homicide in twenty-five countries.

  • Hemenway, David, Tomoko Shinoda-Tagawa, and Matthew Miller. 2002. Firearm availability and female homicide victimization rates among 25 populous high-income countries. Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association 57.2: 100–104.

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    Among high-income countries, where firearms are more available, more women are homicide victims. Women in the United States are at higher risk of homicide victimization than are women in any other high-income country.

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  • Killias, Martin. 1993. International correlations between gun ownership and rates of homicide and suicide. Canadian Medical Association Journal 148.10: 1721–1725.

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    Author reports a positive association between the rates of household gun ownership and national rates of homicide and suicide and the proportion of homicides and suicides committed with a gun. No negative association between rates of ownership and rates of homicide and suicide committed by other means indicates that the other means are not used to “compensate” for an absence of guns in countries with a lower rate of gun ownership.

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  • Krug, E. G., K. E. Powell, and L. L. Dahlberg. 1998. Firearm-related deaths in the United States and 35 other high- and upper-middle income countries. International Journal of Epidemiology 27.2: 214–221.

    DOI: 10.1093/ije/27.2.214Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Over a one-year period, the rate of firearm deaths in the United States exceeded that of its economic counterparts by a factor of eight. Suicide and homicide contributed equally to total firearm deaths in the United States, but most firearm deaths in other high- and upper-middle-income countries were suicides.

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  • Lester, David. 1991. Crime as opportunity: A test of the hypothesis with European homicide rates. British Journal of Criminology 31.2: 186–188.

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    This study of European nations found that where there is more firearm availability, there is more firearm-related homicide. No association was found between firearm availability and homicide rates not due to firearms.

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  • Miron, Jeffrey A. 2001. Violence, guns, and drugs: A cross-country analysis. Journal of Law and Economics 44.2: 615–633.

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    Suggests that differences in enforcement of drug prohibition are an important factor in explaining differences in violence rates across countries. Results suggest a role for drug prohibition enforcement in explaining differences in violence, providing an alternative explanation for the effects of gun control and availability on rates of violence.

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Gun Carrying and Gun Ownership

One of the first systematic studies in this area is Kleck, et al. 1979. A more recent comprehensive study on gun ownership and homicide is Kellermann, et al. 1993. McDowall, et al. 1995 looks at on the effects of firearms laws on homicide; Blumstein and Cork 1996 links gun availability to drug markets and youth homicide, and Hemenway and Richardson 1997 also contributes to the literature on the consequences of firearm ownership. Kleck and Hogan 1999 reports that gun ownership has a modest relationship with national homicide rates. Recent contributions to the literature on gun carrying include Sherman 2000 and Duggan 2001.

  • Blumstein, Alfred and Daniel Cork. 1996. Linking gun availability to youth gun violence. Law and Contemporary Problems 59.1: 5–24.

    DOI: 10.2307/1192207Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reports that gun availability and increased recruitment of youth into drug markets are key contributing factors to the growth in youth homicide across the United States. The number of gun homicides more than doubled between 1985 and 1991, with no growth in nongun homicides, and guns had a significant impact on homicide rates.

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  • Duggan, Mark. 2001. More guns, more crime. Journal of Political Economy, 109.5: 1086–1114.

    DOI: 10.1086/322833Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Changes in gun ownership are positively related to changes in the homicide rate. Duggan reports that the relationship is mostly due to the impact of gun ownership on murders in which a gun is used. Reductions in the percentage of households owning a gun can explain much of the differential decline in gun homicides relative to nongun homicides.

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  • Hemenway, David, and Elizabeth Richardson. 1997. Characteristics of automatic or semiautomatic firearm ownership in the United States. American Journal of Public Health 87.2: 286–288.

    DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.87.2.286Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Owners of automatic and semiautomatic weapons are more likely to be male, live in the South, have a gun for work, and own a gun for protection, according to a survey of eight hundred gun owners. They are also more likely to binge drink.

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  • Kellermann, Arthur L., Frederick P. Rivara, Norman B. Rushforth, Joyce G. Banton, Donald T. Reay, Jerry T. Francisco, Ana B. Locci, Janice Prodzinski, Bela B. Hackman, and Grant Somes. 1993. Gun ownership as a risk factor for homicide in the home. New England Journal of Medicine 329.15: 1084–1091.

    DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199310073291506Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authors report keeping a gun in the home is associated with an increased risk of homicide. Almost all of this risk involves homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance. The use of illicit drugs and a history of physical fights in the home are also important risk factors for homicide in the home.

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  • Kleck, Gary. 1979. Capital punishment, gun ownership, and homicide. American Journal of Sociology 84.4: 882–910.

    DOI: 10.1086/226865Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Findings consistently show a reciprocal relationship between gun ownership levels and the homicide rate, with crime pushing up gun ownership and gun ownership pushing up the homicide rate. A greater certainty of arrest and conviction has a significant negative effect on the homicide rate, suggesting a deterrent effect for legal sanctions, while the homicide rate, in turn, has a negative effect on the certainty of punishment.

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  • Kleck, Gary, and Michael Hogan. 1999. National case-control study of homicide offending and gun ownership. Social Problems 46.2: 275–293.

    DOI: 10.1525/sp.1999.46.2.03x0189gSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A national case-control study indicated that persons who live in households with guns are 2.7 times as likely to become homicide victims as persons in households without guns. Kleck and Hogan, however, found that gun ownership has a weak and unstable relationship with homicidal behavior, and that a dangerous lifestyle, membership in a street gang, and drug dealing may play a larger role in such behavior.

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  • McDowall, David, Colin Loftin, Brian Wiersema. 1995. Easing concealed firearms laws: Effects on homicide in three states. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 86.1: 193–206.

    DOI: 10.2307/1144006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authors examined states before and after the implementation of “shall issue” laws, which make it easier to obtain guns. They found no support for the idea that such laws reduced homicides but instead found an increase in firearm murders. Available online from BNET.

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  • Sherman, Lawrence W. 2000. Gun carrying and homicide prevention. Journal of the American Medical Association 283.9: 1193–1195.

    DOI: 10.1001/jama.283.9.1193Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contends that without a high level of enforcement of gun-carrying laws in the United States, homicide rates would likely be higher. It is possible, therefore, that greater attention by police to enforcement of gun-carrying laws in the United States could reduce homicide rates.

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Firearm Availability

Research on the connection between firearm availability and gun violence has taken place for several decades. Seitz 1972, Kellerman, et al. 1991, and McDowell 1991 all highlight early research on firearms violence. Kennedy, et al. 1998 looks at the importance of considering income inequality and social capital when examining firearm violence. A more recent line of research has focused on the relationship between firearm availability and violent crime. Excellent examples include Stolzenberg and D’Alessio 2000, an examination of illegal gun availability and violent crime, Kates and Polsby 2000, an exploration of firearms and crime over time, and Hepburn and Hemenway 2004, which reviews the literature on this issue.

  • Hepburn, Lisa M. and David Hemenway. 2004. Firearm availability and homicide: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior 9.4: 417–440.

    DOI: 10.1016/S1359-1789(03)00044-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Households with firearms are at higher risk for homicide. International studies show that in high-income countries with more firearms, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide. Studies in the United States also find that increased gun prevalence increases the homicide rate.

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  • Kates, Don B., and Daniel D. Polsby. 2000. Long-term nonrelationship of widespread and increasing firearm availability to homicide in the United States. Homicide Studies 4.2: 185–201.

    DOI: 10.1177/1088767900004002004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Disputing the link between gun prevalence and homicide, the authors note that the acquisition and ownership of firearms was not consistently associated with homicide rates in the United States from 1973 to 1997, when the availability of firearms increased but homicide rates stayed flat.

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  • Kellerman, Arthur L., Roberta K. Lee, James A Mercy, and Joyce Banton. 1991. The epidemiologic basis for the prevention of firearm injuries. Annual Review of Public Health 12:17–40.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.pu.12.050191.000313Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses rates of injuries and the importance of determining whether different types of guns have different relationships to injury and violence.

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  • Kennedy, Bruce P., Ichiro Kawachi, Deborah Prothrow-Stith, Kimberly Lochner, and Vanita Gupta. 1998. Social capital, income inequality, and firearm violent crime. Social Science and Medicine 47.1: 7–17.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0277-9536(98)00097-5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Income inequality is strongly associated with firearm violent crime (homicide) and with social capital. This relationship holds when controlling for poverty and a proxy variable for access to firearms.

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  • McDowell, David. 1991. Firearm availability and homicide rates in Detroit. Social Forces 69.4: 1085–1101.

    DOI: 10.2307/2579303Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds gun availability increases homicide rates but notes the difficulty of measuring gun density while using measures of firearm-related robberies and suicides.

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  • Seitz, Steven T. 1972. Firearms, homicides, and gun control effectiveness. Law and Society Review 6.4: 595–613.

    DOI: 10.2307/3052950Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Associates firearm violence with firearm availability. Seitz discusses different explanations for the link between guns and violence, reports that decreases in availability reduce homicides (a finding that is pronounced for whites) and concludes that guns do lead to violence.

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  • Stolzenberg, Lisa and Stewart L. D’Alessio. 2000. Gun availability and violent crime: New evidence from the National Incident-Based Reporting System. Social Forces 78.4: 1461–1482.

    DOI: 10.2307/3006181Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authors report a strong association between illegal gun availability and violent crime, gun crime, and juvenile gun crime but little if any association between legal gun availability and such crimes.

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Policy

A number of studies have looked at policies designed to reduce the incidence of firearms violence and reduce gun markets. Murray 1975 was one of the first to explore the impact of gun laws on firearm availability. Similarly, McDowell, et al. 1992 compared legal efforts to prevent gun crimes. Efforts to increase gun seizures and decrease gun violence are discussed in Sherman and Rogan 1995. Kennedy, et al. 1996 provides information on gun markets and youth violence in Boston, while Wintemute, et al. 1998 describes differences among gun purchasers with or without a misdemeanor conviction. Koper and Roth 2001 offers policy recommendations to improve the examination of weapons bans and gun violence. Based on a series of studies on interventions in three cities, Rosenfeld, et al. 2005 provides policy recommendations to reduce violence. Vigdor and Mercy 2006 discusses the impact of laws restricting access to firearms by individuals who are subject to a restraining order or have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

  • Kennedy, David M., Anne M. Piehl, and Anthony A. Braga. 1996. Youth violence in Boston: Gun markets, serious youth offenders, and a use reduction strategy. Law and Contemporary Problems 59.1: 147–196.

    DOI: 10.2307/1192213Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the idea that guns were initially linked with Boston’s illicit drug market but through self-defense and fear became more a part of the community. Most of Boston’s young homicide victims and offenders are gang members and high-rate criminal offenders. Text available online.

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  • Koper, Christopher S., and Jeffrey A. Roth. 2001. The impact of the 1994 federal assault weapon ban on gun violence outcomes: An assessment of multiple outcome measures and some lessons for policy evaluation. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 17.1: 33–74.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1007522431219Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The 1994 ban on assault weapons may have contributed to a reduction in gun homicides, but any impact from the ban will be difficult to detect for years. This study found no reductions in multiple-victim gun homicides or multiple-gunshot-wound victimizations. The findings should be treated cautiously, however, due to the methodological difficulties of making a short-term assessment of the ban and because long-term effects could differ from the short-term impacts.

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  • McDowell, David, Colin Loftin, Brian Wiersema. 1992. A comparative study of the preventative effects of mandatory sentencing laws for gun crimes. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 83.2: 378–394.

    DOI: 10.2307/1143862Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reports that mandatory sentencing laws lowered the homicide rate, but that the effects on assault or robbery could not be examined in the data.

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  • Murray, Douglas R. 1975. Handguns, gun control laws and firearm violence. Social Problems 23:81–93.

    DOI: 10.1525/sp.1975.23.1.03a00080Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Author found no impact of gun laws or differential firearm availability on rates of violence.

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  • Rosenfeld, Richard, Robert Fornango, Eric Baumer, and Richard A. Berk. 2005. Did Ceasefire, Compstat, and Exile reduce homicide? Criminology and Public Policy 4: 419–450.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9133.2005.00310.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An examination of how interventions in three cities during the 1990s (Boston’s Operation Ceasefire, New York’s Compstat, and Richmond, Virginia’s Project Exile) affected homicide trends. Authors found that New York’s homicide trend did not differ from other cities, that there was some homicide reduction in Boston, and that Richmond’s homicide reduction was significantly greater than the decline in other large cities.

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  • Sherman, Lawrence W., and Dennis P. Rogan. 1995. Effects of gun seizures on gun violence: “Hot spots” patrol in Kansas City. Justice Quarterly 12.4: 673–693.

    DOI: 10.1080/07418829500096241Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Intensive patrols near gun-crime hot spots produced a 65 percent increase in firearms seized by police. In addition, gun crimes declined in the target area by 49 percent, with no significant displacement to any patrol beat surrounding the target area. Neither gun crimes nor guns seized changed significantly in the comparison beat several miles away.

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  • Vigdor, Elizabeth Richardson, and James A. Mercy. 2006. Do laws restricting access to firearms by domestic violence offenders prevent intimate partner homicide? Evaluation Review 30.3: 313–346.

    DOI: 10.1177/0193841X06287307Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors examined the impact of laws that restrict access to firearms by individuals who are subject to a restraining order or have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, as well as laws that allow law enforcement officers to confiscate firearms at a domestic violence scene. They found that female intimate partner homicide rates decline after a state passes a restraining-order law.

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  • Wintemute, Garen J., Christiana M. Drake, James J. Beaumont, Mona A. Wright, and Carrie A. Parham. 1998. Prior misdemeanor convictions as a risk factor for later violent and firearm-related criminal activity among authorized purchasers of handguns. Journal of the American Medical Association 280.24: 2083–2087.

    DOI: 10.1001/jama.280.24.2083Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Handgun purchasers with a prior misdemeanor conviction were several times more likely than those with no prior criminal history to be charged with a new offense after a handgun purchase. Among men, those with two or more prior convictions for misdemeanor violence were at greatest risk for nonviolent firearm-related offenses, such as weapon carrying, and violent offenses generally.

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LAST MODIFIED: 12/14/2009

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396607-0030

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