Strategies for Disrupting Illegal Firearm Markets

A Case Study of Los Angeles

by Greg Ridgeway, Glenn L. Pierce, Anthony A. Braga, George Tita, Garen Wintemute, Wendell Roberts

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Abstract

In 2001, with the support of a grant from the National Institute of Justice, 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. The authors created a new software tool to help law enforcement analyze patterns in crime-gun data and identify and trace illicit pathways by which criminals acquire guns. Second, the findings were incorporated into an interagency working-group process that developed a community-based intervention designed to disrupt the illegal flow of guns to Los Angeles-area criminals; this intervention may had an impact on straw purchasing. Key participants in the working group included the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Los Angeles Police Department; the U.S. Attorney's Office; state and city prosecutors; academics; and other criminal-justice agencies. Finally, they assessed the utility of retail ammunition-purchase records in identifying prohibited firearm possessors, recommending a cost-benefit analysis on this measure.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Development of the Firearms Trace Pattern Analysis Software

  • Chapter Three

    New Gun-Buyer-Notification Program

  • Chapter Four

    The Criminal Purchase of Firearm Ammunition

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions

  • Appendix A

    Data Dictionary of Variables Incorporated in the FTPA System

  • Appendix B

    Trafficking and Suspicious-Behavior Indicators in the FTPA System

  • Appendix C

    Database-Query and Information-Request Form

  • Appendix D

    Letter to City of Los Angeles Gun Buyers

This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice and conducted under the auspices of the Safety and Justice Program within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE).

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