Disproportionate sales of crime guns among licensed handgun retailers in the United States: A case-control study

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Objective: To determine risk factors among licensed firearm retailers for disproportionate sales of handguns that are later subjected to ownership tracing, generally after use in crime. Design: Case-control; the study period was 1998-2003. Cases were all eligible firearm retailers whose handguns were later traced at a rate that significantly (p<0.05) exceeded the expected value. Controls were a 4:1 random sample of the remainder. Data were obtained from sales and tracing records for 1998-2003 and site visits conducted August-December, 2004. Subjects and setting: 60 cases and 240 controls, from the 573 retailers in California selling ≥ 50 handguns annually during the study period. Main outcome measure: Status as a case. Odds ratios were used to measure relative risk. Results: In multivariate analyses, cases had larger sales volumes, sold inexpensive handguns more often, had a higher percentage of sales denied because the prospective purchasers were prohibited from owning firearms, and were more likely to be in an urban area, in or near a city with a policy of tracing all recovered crime guns. The effects of several risk factors, including status as a pawnbroker and sales to law enforcement personnel, appeared to be mediated by purchaser characteristics for which denied sales are a proxy measure. Conclusions: A number of factors-most of them characteristics of the retailers or of their handgun purchasers, and most of them available in existing data- were linked to disproportionate sales of handguns that are later used in crime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-299
Number of pages9
JournalInjury Prevention
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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