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Firearms and Crime - Theft Of Firearms

gun stolen weapons guns

How do criminals acquire guns? A 1997 U.S. Department of Justice survey of prison inmates possessing a firearm during the offense that put them in jail (Caroline Wolf Harlow, Firearm Use by Offenders, Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 2001) showed that 14% bought their gun from a retail store, pawn shop, flea market, or gun show, down from 21% in 1991, when the last such survey was conducted. Forty percent acquired their firearms from family or friends, up from 34% in 1991.

Another way of acquiring weapons is by theft. The FBI compiles data on the theft of guns through Stolen Gun File Records. Between 1993 and 2002, 1.7 million firearms were taken, representing a rate of 16.8 stolen firearms for

TABLE 5.13

Justifiable homicide by law enforcement officers1, by weapon, 1998–2002
Year Total Total firearms Handguns Rifles Shotguns Firearms, type not stated Knives or cutting instruments Other dangerous weapons Personal weapons
1The killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.
SOURCE: Table 2.16. Justifiable Homicide, by Weapon, in Crime in the United States, 2002, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2003, (accessed October 10,2004)
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

every one thousand households. Although 687,857 of the weapons were later recovered, more than one million of these stolen firearms were unaccounted for as of 2002. From January to August of 2002 alone, 82,387 firearms were stolen in the United States ("Reported Firearm Thefts Nationally," in Stolen Firearms, Arming the Enemy, Americans for Gun Safety Foundation, December 2002).

Many criminals get their guns from the black market. Sometimes those guns are legally purchased in states with less restrictive gun laws and are then transported to states with strong gun laws, a phenomenon known as gunrunning.

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