Interpreting the empirical evidence on illegal gun market dynamics

J Urban Health. 2012 Oct;89(5):779-93. doi: 10.1007/s11524-012-9681-y.


Thousands of Americans are killed by gunfire each year, and hundreds of thousands more are injured or threatened with guns in robberies and assaults. The burden of gun violence in urban areas is particularly high. Critics suggest that the results of firearm trace data and gun trafficking investigation studies cannot be used to understand the illegal supply of guns to criminals and, therefore, that regulatory and enforcement efforts designed to disrupt illegal firearms markets are futile in addressing criminal access to firearms. In this paper, we present new data to address three key arguments used by skeptics to undermine research on illegal gun market dynamics. We find that criminals rely upon a diverse set of illegal diversion pathways to acquire guns, gun traffickers usually divert small numbers of guns, newer guns are diverted through close-to-retail diversions from legal firearms commerce, and that a diverse set of gun trafficking indicators are needed to identify and shut down gun trafficking pathways.

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Commerce / statistics & numerical data
  • Crime / prevention & control
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data*
  • Criminals / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Criminals / statistics & numerical data
  • Firearms / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds, Gunshot / epidemiology*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / mortality
  • Wounds, Gunshot / prevention & control