Types of Crime - Guns And Crime

percent firearms firearm weapons

There are enough guns in private hands to provide every adult in America with one.

—Bulletin Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2, 1997

Based on a survey funded by a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) grant, the Police Foundation estimated that FIGURE 2.4
Types of larceny-theft, 2002
Percent distribution*
private citizens owned 192 million firearms in the United States in 1994. During the year, about 211,000 handguns and 382,000 long guns (rifles and shotguns) were stolen from the nation's homes or vehicles. Not surprisingly many stolen guns wound up in the hands of criminals.

In 2002, of the 14,054 weapons used to commit murder, 9,369 were firearms. Of those firearms, 7,176 were handguns. Among those murders in which firearms were used, 76.6 percent were handguns, 5.1 percent were rifles, 5.1 percent were shotguns, and 13.2 percent were other types of firearms or unknown. (See Table 2.16.)

Weapons Offenses and Offenders

Weapons offenses are violations of statutes or regulations that seek to control deadly weapons. Deadly weapons include firearms and their ammunition, silencers, explosives, and certain knives. From 1992 to 2002 the number of arrests for weapons offenses dropped from 129,122 to 118,148, a decline of 8.5 percent. Those under 18 years of age accounted for 25,239 of the 2002 arrests. In 2002 just over 1 percent of arrests nationwide were for weapons offenses. Of those persons arrested, 70.7 percent were white and 26.9 percent were black.

TABLE 2.15
Arson, by type of property, 2002
[12,414 agencies; 2002 estimated population 225,428,667]

Property classification Number of offenses Percent distribution1 Percent not in use Average damage Total clearances Percent of offenses cleared2 Percent of clearances under 18
Total 66,308 100.0 $11,253 11,190 16.9 42.1
Total structure: 27,373 41.3 18.2 20,818 6,139 22.4 40.3
Single occupancy residential 11,789 17.8 19.7 18,535 2,631 22.3 31.2
Other residential 4,821 7.3 14.8 21,846 1,071 22.2 30.7
Storage 1,940 2.9 19.7 15,627 391 20.2 54.0
Industrial/manufacturing 333 0.5 22.8 71,376 62 18.6 29.0
Other commercial 2,735 4.1 15.4 45,927 485 17.7 27.6
Community/public 3,140 4.7 13.6 11,181 1,036 33.0 71.8
Other structure 2,615 3.9 24.3 11,933 463 17.7 47.1
Total mobile: 21,920 33.1 6,073 1,584 7.2 23.6
Motor vehicles 20,736 31.3 5,781 1,423 6.9 21.9
Other mobile 1,184 1.8 11,183 161 13.6 39.1
Other 17,015 25.7 2,536 3,467 20.4 53.5
1Because of rounding, the percentages may not add to 100.0.
2Includes offenses cleared by arrest or exceptional means.
SOURCE: "Table 2.32: Arson, by Type of Property, 2002," in Crime in the United States 2002, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, DC, 2003

Crimes Committed with Firearms

From 1974 to 1993 the number of violent offenses (murders, robberies, and aggravated assaults) committed with firearms increased 78 percent. But from 1993 to 2001 the total number of violent crimes committed with firearms decreased by 63 percent.

According to Firearm Use by Offenders (Caroline Wolf Harlow, Ph.D., Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, November 2001), some 18 percent of state prisoners and 15 percent of federal prisoners in 1997 reported that they carried a firearm at the time of their offenses. Of those, 9 percent of state prisoners and 2 percent of federal prisoners in 1997 said that they fired a gun during the commission of the offense for which they were incarcerated. Most reported carrying a handgun (83 percent of state prisoners and 87 percent of federal prisoners).

Among prisoners in 1997 who reported carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime, some 23 percent of state inmates and 5 percent of federal inmates either killed or injured their victim as the result of discharging the firearm. Nonetheless, between 1993 and 1997, gunshot wounds from any type of crime declined by some 40 percent according to Firearm Injury and Death from Crime, 199397, by Marianne W. Zawitz and Kevin J. Strom (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000). During the same period, firearm-related homicides fell by 27 percent, from 18,300 in 1993 to 13,300 in 1997.

Crimes committed with firearms usually carry a higher penalty. About 40 percent of all state prisoners and 56 percent of all federal prisoners who used firearms were given more severe sentences. On average, state inmates who used a firearm received 18 years in prison, while those who committed similar crimes without firearms received 12 years.

TABLE 2.16
Murder victims, by weapon used, 1998–2002

Weapons 1998 1999 2000 20011 2002
Total 14,209 13,011 13,230 14,061 14,054
Total firearms: 9,220 8,480 8,661 8,890 9,369
Handguns 7,405 6,658 6,778 6,931 7,176
Rifles 546 400 411 386 480
Shotguns 626 531 485 511 476
Other guns 16 92 53 59 74
Firearms, type not stated 627 799 934 1,003 1,163
Knives or cutting instruments 1,890 1,712 1,782 1,831 1,767
Blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.) 750 756 617 680 666
Personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.)2 959 885 927 961 933
Poison 6 11 8 12 23
Explosives 10 0 9 4 11
Fire 132 133 134 109 104
Narcotics 33 26 20 37 48
Drowning 28 28 15 23 18
Strangulation 213 190 166 153 143
Asphyxiation 99 106 92 116 103
Other weapons or weapons not stated 869 684 799 1,245 869
1The murder and nonnegligent homicides that occurred as a result of the events of September 11, 2001, are not included.
2Pushed is included in personal weapons.
SOURCE: "Table 2.10: Murder Victims, by Weapon, 1998–2002," in "Crime Index Offenses, Percent Distribution, 2002," in Crime in the United States 2002, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, DC, 2003

Firearm-Related Deaths

From 1991 to 1999 the percentage of firearm-related homicides declined from 47 percent of all firearm-related deaths to 38 percent, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The reduction in the overall number of firearm-related homicides was even more dramatic, from 17,986 in 1991 to 10,828 in 1999. Though the FBI estimated that

TABLE 2.17
Justifiable homicide by private citizens,* by weapon, 1998–2002

Year Total Total firearms Handguns Rifles Shotguns Firearms, type not stated Knives or cutting instruments Other dangerous weapons Personal weapons
1998 196 170 150 6 14 0 17 5 4
1999 192 158 137 5 10 6 18 9 7
2000 164 138 123 4 7 4 15 8 3
2001 222 183 143 10 13 17 26 6 7
2002 225 184 154 11 13 6 26 9 6
1The killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen.
SOURCE: "Table 2.17: Justifiable Homicide by Weapon, 1998–2002: Private Citizen," in Crime in the United States 2002, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, DC, 2003

TABLE 2.18
Justifiable homicide by law enforcement officers,* by weapon, 1998–2002

Year Total Total firearms Handguns Rifles Shotguns Firearms, type not stated Knives or cutting instruments Other dangerous weapons Personal weapons
1998 369 367 322 15 18 12 0 0 2
1999 308 305 274 11 15 5 0 1 2
2000 309 308 274 14 13 7 0 1 0
2001 378 375 318 25 11 21 0 3 0
2002 339 335 294 18 7 16 1 3 0
*The killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.
SOURCE: "Table 2.16: Justifiable Homicide by Weapon, 1998–2002: Law Enforcement," in Crime in the United States 2002, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, DC, 2003

66 percent of the 15,517 murders in 2000 were committed with firearms, this still shows a decline, with about 10,241 homicides attributed to firearms. The National Center for Health Statistics estimated that of the other deaths caused by firearms in 1999, 57 percent were suicides, 3 percent were unintentional, and the intent in the remaining 1 percent of deaths was undetermined. The proportion of firearm-related deaths ruled to be suicides showed an increase between 1991 and 1999, rising from 48 percent to 57 percent. Although the rate of firearm-related suicides rose during that period, the overall number of such suicides declined from 18,526 in 1991 to 16,599 in 1999.

Among persons 19 years of age and younger, 59 percent (1,990) of the 3,385 firearm-related deaths in 1999 were homicides and 32 percent (1,078) were suicides. The remaining deaths were either unintentional or undetermined. Among adults 20 years of age or older, 35 percent of the 25,469 firearm-related deaths in 1999 were homicides and 61 percent were suicides.

Sources for Firearms Used in Crimes

Among prisoners in 1997 who reported carrying a firearm during their crimes, 14 percent said they bought or traded the gun from a legitimate retail outlet (store, pawn shop, flea market or gun show), a decline from the 21 percent of inmates in 1991 who reported purchasing a firearm from legitimate sources. Part of this decline may be attributed to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act's requirement for criminal history checks for firearm purchases. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, since the law's enactment in 1994, some 689,000 of the nearly 30 million applicants for gun purchases were rejected by the FBI. Of the 7.8 million applicants for firearm permits or transfers in 2000, some 153,000 were rejected. State agencies rejected 2.5 percent of the 3.5 million criminal background checks conducted in 2000, while the FBI rejected 1.6 percent of 4.3 million checks they conducted. Friends, family, street buys, theft, and other illegal means of acquiring a gun accounted for 80 percent of firearms used in crimes.

Defensive Use of Guns

The number of justifiable homicides by private citizens (when a citizen kills a felon during the commission of a criminal offense) increased from 196 in 1998 to 225 in 2002. According to the FBI, in 2002 about 184 firearms were used in cases of justifiable homicide in the United States. Of those, most (154) were handguns. (See Table 2.17.) Among law enforcement officers, there were 339 incidents of justifiable homicide in 2002, most of which (294) involved the use of handguns. Although justifiable homicides by law enforcement officers have declined from a five-year high of 369 in 1998, there was a rise in such homicides in years 2001-2002. (See Table 2.18.)

TABLE 2.19
Workplace homicides by victim characteristics, type of event, and selected occupation and industry, 1992–20011

1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 20012
Total 1,044 1,074 1,080 1,036 927 860 714 651 677 639
Victim characteristics Employee status Wage and salary workers3 793 786 818 823 675 632 526 485 488 470
Self-employed4 251 288 262 213 252 228 188 166 189 169
Sex
Male 862 884 895 790 751 715 550 525 543 513
Female 182 190 185 246 176 145 164 126 134 126
Age
Under 16 years 5 6 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5
16 to 17 years 11 11 10 6 8 9 5 8 5 5
18 to 19 years 19 16 27 26 21 16 12 11 14 14
20 to 24 years 105 89 102 70 74 60 44 49 41 45
25 to 34 years 271 294 280 264 220 215 178 145 142 136
35 to 44 years 275 295 290 258 228 216 199 166 177 174
45 to 54 years 186 194 205 215 189 171 139 155 165 151
55 to 64 years 116 108 104 127 120 120 82 74 100 81
65 years and older 56 61 61 65 65 51 52 38 31 34
Race, ethnicity
White 597 583 592 578 504 500 399 346 344 331
Black 192 164 210 206 171 146 128 116 118 113
Asian or Pacific Islander 105 128 129 100 105 104 74 85 84 72
American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut 5 6 7 5 6 5 5 5 5 5
Other or unspecified 14 8 5 17 11 5 10 5 20 13
Hispanic6 132 185 139 130 130 101 99 95 108 106
Type of event
Shooting 852 884 934 762 761 708 574 509 533 505
Stabbing 90 95 60 67 80 73 61 62 66 58
Hitting, kicking, beating 52 35 47 46 50 48 48 48 37 36
Other 30 48 31 153 29 26 24 26 38 38

Other Self-Protective Measures

According to Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2001 Statistical Tables, published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 70.4 percent of violent crimes, the victims offered resistance to their assailants. Only 0.9 percent used a weapon, while 9.5 percent attacked their assailant without a weapon. Eleven percent scared off or warned off their attackers and another 11 percent persuaded or appeased their attackers. Of those incidents where the victim resisted, their self-protection measure helped the situation in 67.8 percent of the cases.

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