Study objective: We studied a population of young adults who legally purchased handguns to determine whether an association exists between the purchase of an assault-type handgun and prior or subsequent criminal activity. Methods: We conducted a longitudinal study of 5,360 legally authorized purchasers of handguns in California in 1988 who were younger than 25 years at the time of purchase. Our main outcome measures were (1) adjusted relative risk (RR) for the purchase of an assault-type handgun for subjects with a criminal history compared with subjects without such a history and (2) adjusted RR for new criminal activity during the 3 years after handgun purchase for purchasers of assault-type handguns compared with purchasers of other handguns. RRs were adjusted for sex and race/ethnicity. Results: Handgun purchasers with a criminal history were more likely than those with no criminal history to purchase assault-type handguns (4.6% and 2.0%, respectively; RR=2.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5 to 2.8). Among handgun purchasers who had a criminal history, purchasers of assault-type handguns were more likely than purchasers of other handguns to be charged with new offenses (RR=1.5; 95% CI, 1.3 to 1.9), including offenses involving firearms or violence (RR=1.7; 95% CI, 1.3 to 2.2). Among those who had previously been charged with Violent Crime Index offenses (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault), those who purchased assault-type handguns were more than twice as likely as purchasers of other handguns to be charged with a new offense (RR= 2.3; 95% CI, 1.5 to 3.4) and three times as likely to be charged with a new offense involving firearms or violence (RR=3.0, 95% CI, 1.9 to 4.6). Conclusion: In this population, the purchase of an assault-type handgun was associated with both prior and subsequent criminal activity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Emergency Medicine