Background: A substantial proportion of individuals who lawfully purchase firearms later become unlawful owners ('prohibited firearm owners'), usually following events associated with an increased risk for future violence. This high-risk population has not previously been described. We aimed to characterise all individuals in California's Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS), a statewide programme for recovering firearms from individuals who legally purchased them and later became prohibited from ownership. Methods: We used univariate and bivariate statistics to describe and compare prohibited firearm owners in APPS with a random sample of non-prohibited firearm owners in relation to age, sex, race/ethnicity and type of firearms owned as of 1 February 2015. We also characterised the geographical distribution of prohibited firearm owners and described their prohibitions. Results: Of the 18 976 prohibited firearm owners, most were men (93%), half were white (53%) and the mean age was 47 years. Prohibited firearm owners were more likely to be male and to be black or Hispanic people than non-prohibited owners. Both prohibited and non-prohibited firearm owners had an average of 2.6 firearms, mostly handguns. Nearly half (48%) of prohibited firearm owners had a felony conviction. Extrapolating from our findings, we estimated that there are approximately 100 000 persons in the USA who unlawfully maintained ownership of their firearms following a felony conviction. Conclusions: Retention of firearms among persons who become lawfully prohibited from possessing them is common in California. Given the nationwide dearth of a programme to recover such weapons, this is likely true in other states as well.
- public health
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health