What happens to stolen guns?

Only about one per cent of all gun transactions in the US are thefts, and there is no evidence that theft is an important source of guns to those who use them to commit violent crimes. In an analysis of nationwide and state-specific data in Springer's Journal of Urban Health, Philip Cook of Duke University in the US emphasizes that what happens to stolen guns has not been studied systematically. New data from Chicago demonstrates that only a tiny proportion of crime guns in that city were ever reported stolen to the Police Department. That and other evidence challenge the popular belief that crimes are mostly committed using stolen weapons.

The research drew on the best available evidence on how many guns are stolen each year in the US, and the extent to which these are then used to commit further offences. Cook used publicly available national data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, and information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and other federal agencies. He also scrutinized data about guns reported stolen to the Chicago Police Department, as well as surveys conducted among convicted felons.

On average 232,400 guns were stolen nationwide between 2005 and 2010, and 251,300 weapons between 2010 and 2014. Residential burglaries accounted for 58 per cent of such thefts between 2005 and 2010, and the most common type of gun stolen was the handgun. Cook put these statistics in the context of all gun transactions and showed that gun thefts represented only about one per cent of the 32 million gun transactions nationwide.

Cook's analyses of data obtained from the University of Chicago Crime Lab showed that 4,010 gun thefts were reported to the Chicago Police Department between 2010 and 2016, averaging 573 per year. One in every two reports included a serial number and manufacturer name. In 2016, 84 (1.5 per cent) of the stolen guns could be matched to one of the more than 5,600 crimes committed in Chicago that year. Taking account of the missing data on half of the stolen guns, it is reasonable to conclude that 3% of recovered guns had been reported stolen.

One in every five guns reported as stolen were likely to be recovered again, usually following an arrest for illegal carrying. Less than half of perpetrators picked up with a stolen gun already had a criminal record that included violent offences.

"The tentative results tend to support a conclusion that stolen guns play only a minor role in ," says Cook, who notes that surveys of convicted felons indicated that they rarely stole the guns they used.

Cook says the current findings are consistent with evidence from other studies that found that theft is relatively rare as a means of directly providing active criminals with guns. Most of the convicted criminals interviewed indicated that they either bought, traded, shared or were given the weapons they used to commit an offence.

While these findings are based on the best available data, those have limitations and further research is necessary. "Even if gun is not the largest contributor to gun violence, it still does play some role, and it is prudent to consider what authorities could do to combat it," says Cook.

To this end he cites proposals for stronger state legislation that requires licensed gun dealers to adopt stricter security measures at their establishments, and gun owners to secure their weapons from being stolen from their homes and vehicles. More comprehensive plans could include the development of smart guns that can only be fired by their owners, or guns equipped with tracking devices.


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More information: Philip J. Cook, Gun Theft and Crime, Journal of Urban Health (2018). DOI: 10.1007/s11524-018-0253-7
Provided by Springer
Citation: What happens to stolen guns? (2018, April 25) retrieved 15 October 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-04-stolen-guns.html
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Apr 25, 2018
"New data from Chicago demonstrates that only a tiny proportion of crime guns in that city were ever reported stolen to the Police Department"

That seems to say that a tiny percentage of guns used in crimes in Chicago were reported to the Chicago Police as stolen.
So then most weren't stolen in Chicago, where the Chicago Police have jurisdiction and people would report to them. but could have been stolen elsewhere outside Chicago where they wouldn't be reported to Chicago Police.
That isn't surprising at all given the history of handgun ownership in Chicago, where average people weren't allowed to own them for so long and still likely have to go through a stringent permit process now.
Trying to extrapolate that to the rest of the US though doesn't seem very convincing.

Apr 26, 2018
How much did this astonishing information cost the American Taxpayer? The true crime here is that such nonsensical ''studies'' are even done. I fail to see what a study like this even accomplishes. The same people who do these ''studies'' pissing away my Tax Money are the ones that will tell us that there is no right or wrong and that feelings are what is important. People commit crimes because they have no moral compass and no moral values because the modern society make excuses for the criminal and release them without trial or incarceration. If you don't tell people is is wrong to steal and you give them excuses, like their unfortunate socioeconomic circumstances, or childhood mistreatment crime will continue unabated.

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