Objective: To determine the effect of limiting handgun purchases to 1 per month on the illegal movement of firearms across state lines.
Design: Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms firearms trace database were obtained for traces requested for firearms recovered in connection with criminal investigations. The analysis incorporates data on date and location of purchase for 14606 firearms purchased prior to (September 1989 through June 1993) and after (July 1993 through March 1995) enactment of a Virginia law limiting handgun purchases to 1 per month.
Main outcome measures: Odds of tracing a firearm acquired prior to implementation of the law to Virginia vs another state in the Southeast compared with the odds for firearms acquired after the law took effect.
Results: For firearms recovered anywhere in the United States, 3201 (27%) of 11 876 acquired prior to the implementation of the law and 519 (19%) of 2730 purchased after the law was enacted were traced to Virginia (odds ratio [OR], 0.64; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.58-0.71). For traces initiated in the northeast corridor (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts), 1103 (34.8%) of 3169 of the firearms acquired before the 1-gun-a-month law took effect and 142 (15.5%) of 919 firearms purchased after implementation were traced to Virginia (OR, 0.34; CI, 0.28-0.41).
Conclusion: Gun control policies involving licensing, registration, and restricting the number of purchases represent efforts to limit the supply of guns available in the illegal market. This study provides evidence that restricting handgun purchases to 1 per month is an effective means of disrupting the illegal interstate transfer of firearms.