Firearms and Crime

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Chapter 5
Firearms and Crime

Many of the statistics on the frequency and ways in which guns are used to commit crimes come from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which collects crime statistics through its Uniform Crime Reports program. Its annual publication Crime in the United States is a primary source for statistical information on crime. The FBI's crime statistics are based solely on police investigation reports and arrests; crimes that are not reported to the police are not included. The most recent report from the Uniform Crime Reports program is Crime in the United States, 2006 (September 2007, http://www.fbigov/ucr/cius2006/index.html).

The FBI reports in Crime in the United States, 2006 that 1,308,436 violent crimes (murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) were reported to law enforcement agencies in 2006, an increase of 1.9% from the previous year. (See Table 5.1.) However, the FBI notes that between 2002 and 2006 violent crime decreased 0.4%, and between 1997 and 2006 it decreased 13.3%.

Table 5.1 shows that offenses in two of the four violent crime categories increased from 2005 to 2006: murder increased 1.8% and robbery increased 6.8%. Offenses in two of the four violent crime categories decreased: forcible rape decreased 1.5% and aggravated assault decreased very slightly by 0.2%. Cities with populations of 25,000 to 49,999 had the largest increase for violent crimes at 3.8%.

In Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook (2004,, the FBI defines the following with respect to the four types of violent crimes shown in Table 5.1. Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter: both are one type of criminal homicide and are defined as the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another, such as deaths caused by injuries received in a fight or assault. (The other type of criminal homicide is manslaughter by negligence, which is defined as the killing of another person through gross negligence, such as deaths caused by one person shooting and killing another by accident when target shooting.) Thus, murder and nonnegligent manslaughter mean the same thing, and both are a type of criminal homicide. Forcible rape: a man forces or attempts to force intercourse on a woman. Sexual attacks on men are counted as aggravated assaults or sex offenses. Statutory rape, in which an underage girl consents to intercourse with a man, is counted as a sex offense. Robbery: someone takes or attempts to take something of value from another with force or a threat of force, making the victim fearful. Aggravated assault: a person physically attacks another with the intent to inflict severe bodily harm. The attacker usually wields a weapon.


Murders, Weapons, and Circumstances

James Alan Fox and Marianne W. Zawitz of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) discuss in Homicide Trends in the United States (July 11, 2007, the homicide victimization rate (the number of people killed by another per one hundred thousand population) from 1950 to 2005. The homicide rate was relatively low in the 1950s and the early 1960s, under five homicides per one hundred thousand people in most years. (See Figure 5.1.) By the mid-1960s, however, the rate rose dramatically and continued through the mid-1970s, reaching nearly ten homicides per one hundred thousand people. Following a slight dip, it peaked in 1980 at 10.2 homicides per 100,000. After a decline in the rate through 1984 to 7.9, the homicide rate rose again in the late 1980s and early 1990s to 9.8 homicides per 100,000 people in 1991.

The homicide rate fell throughout the 1990s. In 2000 it reached the lowest national homicide rate since 1966,

TABLE 5.1 Crime trends by population group, 2005-06
Population group Violent crimeMurder and nonnegllgent manslaughterForcible rapeRobberyAggravated assaultProperty crimeBurglaryLarceny-theftMotor vehicle theftArsonNumber of agencies2006 estimated population
"Includes state police agencies that report aggregately for the entire state.
'Suburban area includes law enforcement agencies in cities with less than 50,000 inhabitants and county law enforcement agencies that are within a metropolitan statistical area. Suburban area excludes all metropolitan agencies associated with a principal city. The agencies associated with suburban areas also appear in other groups within this table.
source: "Table 12. Crime Trends, by Population Group, 2005-2006," in Crime in the United States, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2007, (accessed April 21, 2008)
Total all agencies:20051,284,18515,56881,674395,510791,4339,288,3881,973,1246,150,9821,164,28264,733  
Percent change1.91.8-  
Total cities:20051,024,11012,25060,197346,251605,4127,301,8261,455,3314,910,707935,78847,520  
Percent change21.  
Group I (250,000 and over)2005492,5706,58720,327195,365270,2912,522,159517,5531,548,399456,20719,469  
Percent change14.4-3.24.7-1.4-2.80.6-3.7-3.7-0.9  
1,000,000 and over (group I subset)2005216,6012,8917,09394,309112,308963,317184,430598,587180,3006,727  
Percent change0.26.8-53.1-2-3.1-2.3-3.2-3.71.6  
500,000 to 999,999 (group I subset)2005150,5662,0887,12854,61486,736850,158182,862516,025151,2716,313  
Percent change0.20.9-2.74.4-2.3-2.13.5-3.7-31.2  
250,000 to 499,999 (group I subset)2005125,4031,6086,10646,44271,247708,684150,261433,787124,6366,429  
Percent change3.34.5-  
Group II (100,000 to 249,999)2005170,2152,19210,42957,147100,4471,278,174259,441846,656172,0777,909  
Percent change2.3-1.6-0.89.2-1.2-3.40.7-4.1-5.8-0.4  
Group III (50,000 to 99,999)2005130,0091,4099,20540,19779,1981,085,500222,861739,162123,4776,464  
Percent change3.5-  
Group IV (25,000 to 49,999)200592,5469047,82125,58658,235894,445172,036641,10481,3055,270  
Percent change3.8-0.1£510.41.8-2.31.5-3-4.52.8  
Group V (10,000 to 24,999)200575,1436646,79017,85749,832816,256154,388600,62861,2404,384  
Percent change2.  
Group VI (under 10,000)200563,6274945,62510,09947,409705,292129,052534,75841,4824,024  
Percent change1.  
Metropolitan counties2005207,7582,42615,44445,372144,5161,561,909381,613986,909193,38713,217  
Percent change2.96.1-  
Nonmetropolitan counties"200552,3178926,0333,88741,505424,653136,180253,36635,1073,996  
Percent change-4-10.8-5.32.9-4.3-2.3-2.8-1.9-4.1-2.1  
Suburban area'2005348,5233,63526,91581,744236,2293,082,730660,2452,093,579328,90621,744  
Percent change36-  

at 5.5 homicides per 100,000 people, and remained stabilized through 2005. (See Figure 5.1.) There are a number of hypotheses as to why this was so, including the strong economy of the 1990s, changing demographics, better policing strategies, tougher gun control laws, laws allowing the carrying of concealed weapons, increased use of capital punishment, increases in the number of police, the rising prison population, the receding crack epidemic, and the legalization of abortion two decades earlier.

In Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors That Explain the Decline and Six That Do Not (Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 18, no. 1, winter 2004), Steven D. Levitt analyzes these hypotheses. He concludes that the first six factors do not explain the decline but that the last four factors do. His research shows that police are the first line of defense against crime. In the 1990s the number of police officers in the United States increased about 14%. In addition, imprisonment of criminals increased in the 1990s, removing offenders from the streets and deterring others from committing crimes. He also suggests that as the crack epidemic receded, it had the effect of lowering the violent crime rate. Levitt also notes that a growing body of evidence shows that unwanted children are at a greater risk for crime than wanted children. As a result, the legalization of abortion with the Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113 [1973]) decision about two decades before the mid-1990s led to a reduction in the number of unwanted births and, therefore, to a reduction in the number of children who would have been at a greater risk for crime.

What types of weapons are used in homicides? Fox and Zawitz note that from 1976 to 2005 handguns were the weapons most often used, and incidents involving handguns increased beginning in the mid-1980s. (See Figure 5.2.) By 1993 handgun use began a dramatic decline as did the homicide rate. The number of homicide victims killed by guns from 2002 to 2005 increased slightly from the low point in 1999 to 2001.

Table 5.2 shows murder circumstances by weapon for 2006. In that year, handguns were the weapon most frequently used, accounting for 52% of murders (7,795 out of 14,990 murders), shotguns were used in 3.2% of murders, and rifles were used in 2.9%. Including other guns, over two-thirds (67.8%) of all murders in the United States in 2006 were committed using a firearm. A knife or other cutting instrument was used in 12.2% of murders (1,822 out of 14,990); personal weapons such as fists, hands, or feet in 5.5%; blunt instruments in 4%; and other weapons, such as poisons, fire, and explosives, in the remainder.

Table 5.3 shows murder by type of weapon for 2006 by state. The states with the fewest murders in 2006 were North Dakota (eight), South Dakota (eight), and Wyoming (nine). Firearms were involved in only one of the murders in North Dakota, two of the murders in South Dakota, and five of the murders in Wyoming. California was the state that had the highest number of murders in 2006: 2,485. Nearly three-quarters (73.3% or 1,822) of

TABLE 5.2 Murder circumstances, by weapon, 2006
source: "Expanded Homicide Data Table. Murder Circumstances by Weapon, 2006," in Crime in the United States, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2007, (accessed April 21,2008)
CircumstancesTotal murder victimsTotal firearmsHandgunsRiflesShotgunsOther guns or type not statedKnives or cutting instrumentsBlunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.)Personal weapons(hands, fists, feet, etc.)PoisonPushed or thrown out windowExplosivesFireNarcoticsDrowningStrangulationAsphyxiationOther
Felony type total2,4361,7701,4328474180180988700039702613216
Motor vehicle theft1565001311000000004
Prostitution and                  
commercialized vice832010201000000020
Other sex offenses1811000532000000106
Narcotic drug laws7966325292221603315110001503096
Other-not specified40228921119144525161500012002142
Suspected felony type584237005204100000405
Other than felony type total7,2734,5973,6672192684431,157307582830453196460410
Romantic triangle10366485852545000000021
Child killed by babysitter27000000418010000004
Brawl due to influence                  
of alcohol1075135754205180000002011
Brawl due to influence                  
of narcotics512822132732000080012
Argument over money                  
or property19813210838133899000101503
Other arguments3,6072,2131,76010015320076017523111016223616154
Gangland killings118114788325121000000000
Juvenile gang killings86581174826132433410000000016
Institutional killings2222000619000000220
Sniper attack221100000000000000
Other-not specified2,1731,1788656875170267100288710282161939219
TABLE 5.3 Murder by state and type of weapon, 2006
StateTotal murdersaTotal firearmsHandgunsRiflesShotgunsFirearms (type unknown)Knives or cutting instrumentsOther weaponsHands, fists, feet, etc.b
aTotal number of murders for which supplemental homicide data were received.
bPushed is included in hands, fists, feet, etc.
cLimited supplemental homicide data were received.
SOURCE: Table 20. Murder, by State, Type of Weapon, 2006, in Crime in the United States, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2007, (accessed April 25, 2008)
New Hampshire1232010612
New Jersey4282892700712694723
New Mexico99574833321714
New York9214003081487014135129
North Carolina530338227232860597558
North Dakota811000430
Rhode Island28730048112
South Carolina359253163101466444220
South Dakota820002240
West Virginia71402441119184

these murders were committed with a firearm. Texas, the state with the second highest number of murders in 2006, saw 68.7% (949 out of 1,381) of these murders committed with firearms.

The vast majority of murderers and murder victims are men. Fox and Zawitz note that almost four times as many men as women were murdered in 2005. Murder is often the work of acquaintances: in 2006, 42.3% (6,335) of the murder victims knew their killers, with 11.9% (1,781) of murder victims related to their killers. (See Figure 5.3.) When the FBI published these 2006 crime statistics, the relationship of the offender to the victim was not known in 45% (6,750) of the murders. Strangers were the known perpetrators in 12.7% (1,905) of cases.

In When Men Murder Women : An Analysis of 2005 Homicide Data September 2007,, the Violence Policy Center (VPC), a national nonprofit educational foundation that conducts

research on violence in the United States, finds that in 2005 more women were killed with firearms (52%) than any other type of weapon. Of the homicides committed with firearms, almost three-quarters (72%) involved handguns. According to the study, For victims who knew their offenders, 62 percent (976) of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers.

The VPC confirms in American Roulette: Murder-Suicide in the United States (May 2006, that most murder-suicides are committed with a firearm (92%). In the first half of 2005, for all murder-suicides, 29% involved a handgun, 9.2% involved a shotgun, 3.8% involved a rifle, and 44.3% involved an unspecified type of firearm. Multiple weapons were used in 5.7% of murder-suicides, of which at least one was a firearm. Eight percent involved other weapons or means.

The Criminal Advantages of Guns

A gun offers a criminal several advantages over other weapons. A gun offender can keep a greater physical distance from the victim to ensure his or her own safety

and increase the chances of escaping. Moreover, a gun allows the offender to maintain a psychological distance as well, keeping the confrontation more impersonal and minimizing the emotional involvement. Control over potential victims can be easier to maintain with a gun; victims are less likely to run from a gun-carrying offender than from those brandishing other types of weapons, such as knives, for fear of being shot from a distance.

Mass murders are usually carried out with a firearm because they make it possible to kill the greatest number of people in a limited amount of time. Because guns can kill from a great distance, they are also the most effective weapon against well-guarded targets. Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is the heavy use of firearms in political assassinations or assassination attempts. Also, it is unlikely that a felon would try to rob a well-guarded institution with many customers and multiple exits, such as a bank, while wielding a club or knife.

Shootings in the Workplace and at School

Table 5.4 is a timeline showing some notable incidents of multiple shootings. The workplace and schools are sometimes targets for these atrocities. In Workplace Violence: Issues in Response (March 2004,, Eugene A. Rugala and Arnold R. Isaacs indicate that from 1993 to 1999 there were, on average, about nine hundred workplace homicides (by any cause) per year. Even though this number may sound high, it amounts to only 0.01 homicides annually per 1,000 people in the workforce.

In Terror Nine to Five: Guns in the Workplace, 19942003 (May 2004), Handgun-Free America looks more specifically at workplace shootings and deaths from these shootings. This study reveals that shootings and deaths in the U.S. workplace rose between 1994 and 2003. There were twenty-five workplace shooting incidents in 2002, with thirty-three victims killed; and there were forty-five incidents in 2003, with sixty-nine victims killed and another forty-six wounded. The organization also notes that 91.6% of workplace shooters were men and that 51.8% had experienced a negative change in their employment status23.8% had been laid off and 28% had been demoted or suspended by management.

The most common type of workplace shooting fatality occurs during a robbery of a retail, service, or transportation worker, but on-the-job killings are also perpetrated by disgruntled workers. Such was the case on April 9, 2007, when Anthony LaCalamita III opened fire on a receptionist and two senior partners at an accounting firm in Troy, Michigan, killing the female receptionist and wounding the two men with a Remington pump-action twelve-gauge shotgun. LaCalamita had been fired from the firm just three days earlier and bought the gun the day after his firing.

TABLE 5.4 Notable multiple shootings, 1989-2008
SOURCE: Created by Sandra Alters for Gale, Cengage Learning, 2008.
2008 At the Kirkwood, MO, City Hall, Charles Lee Cookie Thornton stormed a city council meeting, shooting and killing the public works director, two city council members, and two police officers. He seriously injured the city's mayor and wounded a newspaper reporter. Police shot and killed Thornton at the scene, who was said to have a longstanding feud with the city.

2007 In the deadliest shooting rampage by a single gunman in U.S. history, Seung-Hui Cho, a mentally ill college student, killed thirty-two students and faculty members at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). In the shooting spree, fifteen people were also wounded. Cho then shot and killed himself.

2006 Near Hay Springs, Nebraska, Erin Parkhurst shot his wife, two children, and then himself with a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle, ending a long child custody battle.

2005 In the early morning hours at a Paterson, New Jersey, illegal gambling club, an unknown assailant shot four persons in the head at point blank range. The lack of shell casings at the scene suggested that a revolver had been used.

2003 Wielding a semiautomatic pistol, Jonathon Russell killed three of his co-workers and injured five others before killing himself outside of Modine Manufacturing Co., Jefferson City, Missouri.

2002 John Allen Williams, who qualified as an expert marksman with the M-16 in the U.S. Army, and his stepson, 17-year-old John Lee Malvo, were accused of killing 10 people and wounding three others in Washington, DC, and vicinity, in a three-week killing spree with a .232 caliber Bushmaster XM15 semi-automatic rifle.

2000 In Queens, New York, two young gunmen bound, gagged, and shot seven employees with a .380-caliber gun in a Wendy's restaurant. Five of the workers were killed.

2000 Richard Glassel, armed with three handguns, an AR-15 assault rifle, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, shot and killed two women and injured three during a homeowners association meeting.

1999 In Los Angeles, five were wounded and a postal worker was fatally shot at the North Valley Jewish Community Center. Buford O. Furrow Jr. was given two life sentences.
1999 In Atlanta, Georgia, Mark Barton killed 9 people and wounded 13 at two brokerage firms before killing himself.

1999 Twenty-one-year-old Benjamin Nathaniel Smith killed two people and injured nine in a three-day rampage through Indiana and Illinois, before shooting himself.

1999 At Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 fellow students and a teacher, and wounded 23 others, before shooting and killing themselves.

1998 In Springfield, Oregon, 15-year-old Kip Kinkel fired more than 50 rounds from a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle into a high-school cafeteria. Two male students died and 23 other students were injured. The boy also shot and killed his parents.

1998 Four middle-school students and a teacher in Jonesboro, Arkansas, were killed and 10 other students were injured when a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old shot at the school from a nearby wooded area.

1997 Using a gun, Ali Hassan Abu Kamal killed one person and injured six others before taking his own life on the observation deck of the Empire State Building in Manhattan.

1993 Two people were shot and killed and three wounded outside the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia.

1993 Using an assault weapon, Gian Ferri killed eight people and wounded six others in a San Francisco office tower.

1991 Twenty-three people were fatally shot in a cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, by George Hennard Jr., who then shot himself.

1991 Six monks, a nun, and two male followers were slain at a Buddhist temple near Phoenix, Arizona, by Jonathan Doody, a robber who did not want to be identified.

1990 James Pough killed 10 and wounded seven in Jacksonville, Florida, with 2 handguns and an assault-type rifle.

1989 Seven people were killed and 13 others wounded at Standard-Gravure Co. in Louisville, Kentucky, by Joseph Wesbecker, a former employee, who then shot himself.

1989 Wielding a semiautomatic AK-47, Patrick Edward Purdy killed five children and wounded 30, including a teacher, in Stockton, California.
TABLE 5.5 Guns-in-the-workplace legislation, 2005-08
Notes: HB = House bill. SB = Senate bill. AB=Assembly bill. CCW=Carrying concealed weapon. Shall issue CCW legislation = Requirement that a concealed carry permit be issued to an applicant that meets legislated conditions.
SOURCE: Guns-in-the-Workplace Legislation, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, February 26, 2008, (accessed April 22, 2008)
Status of NRA-sponsored legislation that would abrogate [take away] the rights of property owners and employers to prohibit guns from being brought onto their property
States with bills introduced
Alabama (HB 512) Arizona (HB 2536) Florida (HB 503, SB 1130) Indiana (SB 66) Missouri (HB 1383) Tennessee (HB 3063, SB 2928)
States with bills introduced in 2007, carried over to 2008
Georgia (HB 89, SB 43) Pennsylvania (HB 1185) Tennessee (SB 153)
States with bills tabled/ failed due to adjournment
Utah (SB 67)
States with bills passed (2008)
2007 States with bills defeated (2007)
California (AB 652) Florida (HB 1417) Mississippi (HB 212) Utah (SB 78)
States with bills tabled/ failed due to adjournment (2007)
Georgia (HB 89, HB 143, SB 43) Indiana (HB 1118, HB 1397) Missouri (HB 1090) Montana (HB 340) Nebraska (HB 491) Pennsylvania (HB 1185) Tennessee (HB 67, SB 153) Texas (HB 220, HB 511, HB 992, HB 1037, SB 534, SB 739)
States with bills signed by governor (2007)
States with bills passed-other (2007)
Kansas (HB 2528)-Governor's veto overridden by the legislature
Bills defeated (2006)
Wisconsin (SB 403/AB 763): SB 403 passed senate and assembly as part of CCW bill but was vetoed by governor. Veto sustained by legislature. Indiana (HB 1028): (Guns-in-the-workplace language removed from bill 2/24)
Bills tabled/failed due to adjournment (2006)
Alabama (HB 215) California (AB 1912) Florida (HB 129/SB 206) Georgia (HB 998/ SB 634) Louisiana (SB 367) Missouri (HB 1752) New Hampshire (HB 1389) South Carolina (HB 4837) Tennessee (SB 2806/ HB 3300/ SB 2946/ HB 3516/ SB 3836) Utah (SB 24) Virginia (HB 162)
Bills signed by governor (2006)
Kentucky (HB 290) Mississippi (HB 1141)
States with laws enacted
Oklahoma (HB 1243): Enacted 6/9/05 Alaska (HB 184): Enacted 6/24/05 Minnesota (SB 2259): Enacted 5/24/05, part of shall issue CCW legislation Kentucky (SB 142): Enacted 3/31/05

In other examples, Doug Williams, a worker at the Lockheed Martin plant in Meridian, Mississippi, used a rifle and a shotgun to kill five of his coworkers, injure eight others, and kill himself during a company meeting on July 8, 2003. Twenty-one-year-old Elijah Brown, a ConAgra Foods employee, used two handguns to kill five employees, injure two more, and kill himself in Kansas City, Missouri, in July 2004. These kinds of incidents

have become common enough that some companies now train management to be alert to potentially dangerous employees, particularly those who have been told they have lost their job.

Table 5.5 is a list of guns-in-the-workplace legislation from 2005 to 2008. The bills were all intended to take away the rights of property owners and employers to prohibit guns from being brought onto their property; that is, if these bills were enacted, property owners and employers would not be able to prohibit guns from being brought onto their property. The table shows that none of these bills became law in the beginning of 2008, one became law in 2007, two in 2006, and four in 2005.

The timeline in Table 5.4 includes the April 1999 incident in which Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed thirteen people and wounded twenty-three others at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, before shooting and killing themselves. They used a TEC-DC9 handgun, a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun, a pump-action shotgun, and a 9mm semiautomatic rifle. The timeline also includes the massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in which a mentally ill student used two handguns to kill thirty-two students and faculty members, injure fifteen others, and then shoot and kill himself. The table does not include the February 14, 2008, Northern Illinois University shooting in which five students were killed and sixteen wounded. After his shooting rampage, the shooter killed himself. Chapter 7 includes more information on school shootings.


According to Fox and Zawitz, the number of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who have been killed has declined dramatically since the 1970s, from 134 in 1973 to 55 killed in 2005. Most law enforcement officers are killed with firearms, particularly handguns.

TABLE 5.6 Law enforcement officers killed, by type of weapon and region, 2006
RegionTotalTotal firearmsHandgunRifleShotgunKnife or other cutting instrumentBombBlunt instrumentPersonal weaponsVehicleOther
SOURCE: Table 29. Law Enforcement Officers Feloniously Killed, Region by Type of Weapon, 2006, in Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, October 2007, (accessed April 22,2008)
Number of victim officers48463682000020
Puerto Rico and other outlying areas22110000000

In 1975 lightweight body armor became widely available and is credited for the decline in these firearm deaths.

Table 5.6 shows that in 2006 forty-eight law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty, and forty-six (96%) of those deaths were by firearms. Handguns were the most frequently used firearm. More law enforcement officers were killed in the South than in any other region of the country, and firearms were the primary instrument of death.

Table 5.7 details the circumstances under which federal, state, and local police officers were killed feloniously (criminally) between 1997 and 2006. Of the 562 officers in this group, the greatest number of killings took place in arrest situations (133 out of 562, or 24%) and the second greatest in ambush situations (19%). Traffic pursuits/stops was a close third (18%).

Law enforcement officers are also killed in accidents while on duty. In Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2006 (October 2007,, the FBI states that of the 739 federal, state, and local officers who were killed accidentally between 1997 and 2006, automobile accidents were the cause 56% (415 accidents) of the time. Officers were struck and killed by vehicles while directing traffic or on a traffic stop 17% (127 accidents) of the time. Accidental shootings accounted for only 4% (32 accidents) of the fatal accidents. Table 5.8 shows the numbers of law enforcement officers accidentally killed by region and state from 1997 to 2006. Nearly half (346 out of 739) were accidentally killed in the South.

Officers Assaulted

Table 5.9 shows the number and type of assaults on federal officers from 2002 through 2006. During this period there were 4,647 assaults on federal law enforcement officers. Firearms were not the most frequent weapons used in assaults; they were used only 9% (407) of the time. Most often used were personal weapons (e.g., fists), which were used 36% (1,670) of the time. In 2006 there were 1,273 nonfatal assaults against federal officers.

In 2006, 58,643 state and local law enforcement officers were assaulted. (See Table 5.10.) A large majority (79.8%) were attacked with personal weapons such as fists and feet. A lesser number were attacked with weapons other than guns or knives (14.5%), with firearms (3.9%), or with knives (1.8%). Nearly one out of three (35.8%, 815 out of 2,278) of the incidents in which officers were assaulted with firearms involved disturbance calls. About one out of three (35.2%) of all ambush assaults on officers (attacks made by someone hiding in wait) involved firearms. Almost one out of five (17.6%) assaults that occurred during robberies in progress or while pursuing robbery suspects involved firearms.


As mentioned earlier, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports collect data only on crimes reported to law enforcement agencies. To give a better picture of actual crime occurrence in the United Statesincluding unreported crimethe DOJ has conducted the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) since 1973. The statistics appear in the annual report Criminal Victimization in the United States and accompanying statistical tables. The NCVS crime rate is sometimes spoken of as the actual or as the estimated crime rate. (Because of changes in the methodology of the survey in 2006, results for that year cannot be compared to results from previous years.)

The NCVS is divided into violent and property crime categories. Violent crime includes rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault (no weapon is involved). When publishing its data, the NCVS includes the murder rate, which is taken from the FBI's reports.

NCVS estimates reveal that over 4.7 million personal crimes of violence were committed in 2005, including rape, robbery, and assault. (See Table 5.11.) Overall, no weapon was involved in 67.4% of the crimes of violence in 2005. In only 24.3% of the incidents was a weapon used. In only 8.9% of cases was a firearm used. Most often the firearm was a handgun. Nonetheless, in certain crimes of violence, guns were used more or less frequently.

TABLE 5.7 Law enforcement officers killed, by circumstance at scene of incident, 1997-2006
*The 72 deaths that resulted from the events of September 11, 2001, are not included in this table.
SOURCE: Table 19. Law Enforcement Officers Feloniously Killed, Circumstance at Scene of Incident, 1997-2006, in Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, October 2007, (accessed April 22, 2008)
Number of victim officers           
Disturbance calls           
Bar fights, person with firearm, etc.413744545126
Family quarrels5810914855952
Arrest situations           
Burglaries in progress/pursuing burglary suspects155003301210
Robberies in progress/pursuing robbery suspects4411331441746
Drug-related matters271723831002
Attempting other arrests475545935434
Civil disorders (mass disobedience, riot, etc.)           
Handling, transporting, custody of prisoners           
Investigating suspicious persons/circumstances           
Ambush situations           
Unprovoked attacks6776286133949
Investigative activities (surveillance, searches, interviews, etc.)           
Handling persons with mental illness           
Traffic pursuits/stops           
Felony vehicle stops363544564050
Traffic violation stops64554934106108
Tactical situations (barricaded offender, hostage taking, high-risk entry,etc.)           

For example, firearms were used in 26.3% of robberies, but only in 3.1% of rapes.

In 2006 there were approximately 5.7 million personal crimes of violence reported. (See Table 5.12.) No weapon was involved in more than two-thirds (67.1%) of the incidents. Because of methodology changes in the 2006 NCVS, the estimates for 2006 cannot be compared to previous years.

Gun crime reported to the police (taken from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports) fell dramatically from 1993 through 1999, then rose slightly through 2002, then fell again through 2004, and then rose again through 2006. Figure 5.4 shows the peak of gun crime in 1993. In that year, slightly more than 580,000 crimes were committed with firearms. From 1999 through 2004 firearm crimes ranged from approximately 340,000 to 360,000 per year, but rose to nearly 390,000 in 2006.

Figure 5.5 shows that from 1993 to 2004 the percentage of violent crimes involving firearms declined as well, according to estimates from the NCVS. In 1993 about 11% of all violent crimes involved a firearm, but by 2004 only 6% did. Nonetheless, by 2005 the percentage of violent crimes involving firearms rose to 9%.

From 1993 to 2004 both the number of victims of nonfatal firearm-related violent crime and the number of incidents fell. (See Figure 5.6.) In 1993 and 1994 nonfatal firearm-related incidents numbered slightly more than one million. By 2004 such incidents numbered only about 280,000a dramatic decrease. Likewise, in 1994 there were nearly 1.3 million victims of nonfatal firearm-related

TABLE 5.8 Law enforcement officers accidentally killed, by region, geographic division, and state, 1997-2006
Number of victim officers73963816583767581826766
New England192126203021
New Hampshire00000000000
Rhode Island20001100000
Middle Atlantic5362473571054
New Jersey152021113131
New York222214032512
East North Central9010851474712914
West North Central394165565340
North Dakota00000000000
South Dakota20001001000
South Atlantic1526181816162118161211
District of Columbia20100010000
North Carolina271232664210
South Carolina170132052031
West Virginia30011100000
East South Central685589868946
West South Central1261218101015121214149
New Mexico81000420001

violent crime. By 2004 the victims numbered about one-fourth of that figureapproximately 330,000. In 2005, however, the number of nonfatal firearm-related violent incidents rose to nearly 420,000, and the number of non-fatal firearm-related victims to approximately 477,000.

In 2004 the victimization rate estimates of nonfatal firearm crimes reached the lowest level ever recorded: 1.4 victims per 1,000 residents. (See Figure 5.7.) That rate rose in 2005. By the end of 2005, the victimization rate of nonfatal firearm crimes rose to two victims per one thousand residents.

Armed Robbery

As in the case of murder, armed robberies are recorded from police investigations. Thus, they do not

TABLE 5.8 Law enforcement officers accidentally killed, by region, geographic division, and state, 1997-2006 [CONTINUED]
SOURCE: Table 46. Law Enforcement Officers Accidentally Killed, Region, Geographic Division, and State, 1997-2006, in Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, October 2007, (accessed April 22, 2008)
Puerto Rico and other outlying areas232611123331
American Samoa10100000000
Mariana Islands00000000000
Puerto Rico212411123331
U.S. Virgin Islands10100000000
TABLE 5.9 Assaults on federal officers, by extent of injury and type of weapon, 2002-06
YearExtent of injuryTotalFirearmKnife or other cutting instrumentBombBlunt instrumentPersonal weaponsVehicleThreatOther
aPrior to 2003, data were not collected from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
bData for 2003 for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Indian Affairs were not available for inclusion in this table.
cBeginning in 2005, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection changed their reporting practices; therefore, figures are not comparable to previous years' data.
dBeginning in 2006, threat is no longer collected as a type of weapon.
SOURCE: Table 74. Federal Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, Extent of Injury by Type of Weapon, 2002-2006, in Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, October 2007, http:// (accessed April 22, 2008)
Number of victim officersTotal4,6474074436741,6703735521,491
Not injured241321101370396511
2003a, bTotal4373473413145436497
Not injured364337341196326487
Not injured5386292516448134114
Not injured1,572144701037689289657
Not injured1,061102201135470522

include incidents that were never reported, but they do include incidents in which the accused robbers were never convicted in court.

The impact of robbery on its victims cannot be measured only in terms of monetary loss. The goal of robbing someone is usually to obtain money or property, but the crime always involves force, and many victims suffer serious personal injury. Moreover, the psychological trauma can be severe and can affect the victim for the rest of his or her life. In 2005 there were an estimated 569,470 robberies. (See Table 5.11.)

Of the robberies committed in 2006 and reported to the police, 42.2% involved firearms. (See Table 5.13.) Guns were used most frequently in robberies that took place in the South (48.5%). The use of strong-arm tactics (bullying) occurred in 39.9% of the robberies overall, knives or cutting instruments were involved in 8.6%, and other weapons were used in the remaining 9.2% of robberies.

TABLE 5.10 Law enforcement officers assaulted, by circumstance at scene of incident and type of weapon, 2006
  FirearmKnife or other cutting instrumentOther dangerous weaponPersonal weapons
CircumstanceTotalPercent distributionTotalPercent distributionTotalPercent distributionTotalPercent distributionTotalPercent distribution
Note: Because of rounding, the percentages may not add to 100.0.
SOURCE: Table 71. Law Enforcement Officers Assaulted, Circumstance at Scene of Incident by Type of Weapon and Percent Distribution, 2006, in Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, October 2007, (accessed April 22, 2008)
Number of victim officers58,634100.02,2783.91,0471.88,51214.546,79779.8
Disturbance calls18,135100.08154.54922.71,7349.615,09483.2
Burglaries in progress/pursuing burglary suspects844100.0516.0354.115918.859971.0
Robberies in progress/pursuing robbery suspects517100.09117.6122.311021.330458.8
Attempting other arrests9,233100.02522.7951.01,09811.97,78884.3
Civil disorders (mass disobedience, riot, etc.)669100.0131.971.010215.254781.8
Handling, transporting, custody of prisoners7,133100.0450.6350.55417.66,51291.3
Investigating suspicious persons/circumstances5,568100.02133.8961.783915.14,42079.4
Ambush situations179100.06335.252.82815.68346.4
Handling persons with mental illness1,058100.0736.9807.611911.278674.3
Traffic pursuits/stops6,490100.02914.5370.62,30535.53,85759.4
All other8,808100.03714.21531.71,47716.86,80777.3

Aggravated Assault

The FBI reports in Crime in the United States, 2006 that in 2006 there were 860,853 aggravated assaults reported to police, which was a 0.2% decrease over the previous year and a 15.9% decrease from 1997.

In 2006 firearms were used in 21.9% of aggravated assaults, and knives or other cutting instruments were used in 18.7% of aggravated assaults. (See Table 5.14.) In the remaining weapons categories, personal weapons such as hands or feet were used in 25% of the aggravated assaults, and other weapons, such as clubs, were used in the remainder (34.4%). Table 5.14 categorizes the weapons used for aggravated assaults by region. These data show that midwestern states had the highest rate of firearms use in the commission of aggravated assaults (23.4%), followed closely by southern states (23.2%).

Justifiable Homicide

The FBI has also compiled data on the category of justifiable homicide, which it defines as the killing of a felon [a person convicted of a serious criminal offense, such as murder, rape, or arson] by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty or as the killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen.

Table 5.15 shows the data for justifiable homicides committed by private citizens from 2002 to 2006, which indicate an increase from 2002 through 2003, a decrease through 2005, and then another increase through 2006. In 2006 there were 241 justifiable homicides committed by private citizens; firearms were used in 80.9% (195 out of 241) of these incidents.


Table 5.16 shows the rates of violent crime and personal theft in 2006 by race, gender, and age of the victim. African-Americans (32.7 per 1,000 people) were more likely than whites (23.2 per 1,000) to be victims of violent crimes. Those identified as being of two or more races were even more likely to be victims of violent crimes (64.9 per 1,000 people). The category of other race had the lowest violent crime victimization rate, at 18.7 per 1,000 people.

In 2006, those aged twelve to twenty-four were far more likely to be victims of violent crime than people aged twenty-five and older. (See Table 5.17.) Of this group, sixteen- to nineteen-year-olds had the highest rate of violent victimization (52.3 per 1,000 people), twelve- to fifteen-year-olds had the second highest rate (47.3 per 1,000 people), and twenty- to twenty-four-year-olds had the lowest rate (43.7 per 1,000 people). The age group with the lowest violent victimization rate were those sixty-five years and older, at 3.5 per 1,000 people. Moreover, beginning with the sixteen- to nineteen-year-old group, the rate of violent victimization declined with age in 2006.

The rates of violent crime and personal theft are broken down into additional demographic categories in Table 5.18. The table shows that individuals with annual household incomes of less than $7,500 had the highest victimization rates for crimes of violence in 2006 than those living in households with higher annual incomes. Individuals residing in households that earned more than $75,000 annually had the lowest victimization rates for violent crime in 2006.


How do criminals acquire guns? Beginning in 2003 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

TABLE 5.11 Use of weapons in personal crimes of violence, by victim-offender relationship and type of crime, 2005
 Percent of incidents
 Total incidents Weapon used
All incidentsNumberPercentNo weapon usedTotalTotal firearmHand gunOther gun
Note: Responses for weapons use are tallied once, based upon a hierarchy.
*Estimate is based on about 10 or fewer sample cases
-Not applicable.
aIncludes verbal threats of rape and threats of sexual assault.
bSimple assault, by definition, does not involve the use of a weapon.
SOURCE: Table 66. Personal Crimes of Violence, 2005: Percent of Incidents, by Victim-Offender Relationship, Type of Crime and Weapons Use, in Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2005 Statistical Tables, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2006, (accessed April 22, 2008)
Crimes of violence4,718,330100.0%67.4%24.3%8.9%7.8%0.8%
Completed violence1,536,990100.063.128.511.210.90.2*
Attempted/threatened violence3,181,340100.069.522.*
Rape/sexual assaulta188,960100.084.66.5*3.1*1.8*1.4*
Completed/property taken381,070100.036.551.332.832.80.0*
With injury126,440100.041.739.721.7*21.7*0.0*
Without injury254,640100.033.957.138.338.30.0*
Attempted to take property188,400100.042.542.213.1*13.1*0.0*
With injury62,230100.061.918.8*7.2*7.2*0.0*
Without injury126,170100.033.053.816.0*16.0*0.0*
With injury306,480100.021.878.214.412.51.0*
Threatened with weapon619,580100.00.0*100.035.528.65.3*
With minor injury732,080100.089.5
Without injury2,301,770100.090.4
Involving strangers       
Crimes of violence2,465,360100.056.730.412.611.21.0*
Rape/sexual assaulta65,960100.065.513.1*9.0*5.1*3.9*
Aggravated assault524,430100.03.3*96.733.827.54.4*
Simple assaultb1,419,990100.083.8
Involving nonstrangers       
Crimes of violence2,252,970100.*
Rape/sexual assaulta123,010100.094.93.0*0.0*0.0*0.0*
Aggravated assault401,620100.012.387.721.517.83.2*
Simple assaultb1,613,860100.095.8. -
 Percent of incidents
 Weapon used 
 Gun type unknownKnifeSharp objectBlunt objectOther weaponWeapon type unknownDon't know if weapon present
Crimes of violence0.3%*5.4%0.6%*3.9%4.2%1.1%8.3%
Completed violence0.2*7.20.4**8.4
Attempted/threatened violence0.3*4.60.8**8.2
Rape/sexual assaulta0.0*3.4*0.0*0.0*0.0*0.0*8.9*
Completed/property taken0.0*10.60.8*4.5*1.9*0.8*12.2
With injury0.0*0.0*0.0*12.4*5.6*0.0*18.6*
Without injury0.0*15.81.1*0.6*0.0*1.2*9.0*
Attempted to take property0.0*6.5*5.2*3.7*11.9*1.8*15.3*
With injury0.0*0.0*0.0*0.0*6.3*5.3*19.3*
Without injury0.0*9.7*7.8*5.5*14.7*0.0*13.2*
With injury0.9*23.01.0*17.815.76.3*0.0*
Threatened with weapon1.6*20.52.4*17.319.84.5*0.0*
With injury10.5
With minor injury9.6
Involving strangers       
Crimes of violence0.4*5.31.1**12.9
Rape/sexual assaulta0.0*4.1*0.0*0.0*0.0*0.0*21.4*
Aggravated assault2.0*16.02.6**0.0*
Simple assaultb16.2
Involving nonstrangers
Crimes of violence0.1*5.60.2**3.2
Rape/sexual assaulta0.0*3.0*0.0*0.0*0.0*0.0*2.2*
Aggravated assault0.5*28.21.0*11.519.36.1*0.0*
Simple assaultb4.2

(ATF) was legally prohibited from publishing certain statistics on the sales of multiple handguns and on firearms tracing statistics (gun trace statistics). Thus, it is difficult to get up-to-date information on where criminals get their guns. (See Chapter 2 for a more detailed discussion on this topic.)

TABLE 5.12 Presence of weapons in violent incidents, 2006
 Violent crime incidents
Presence of offender's weaponNumberPercent
Note: Percentages may not total to 100% because of rounding. If the offender was armed with more than one weapon, the crime is classified based on the most serious weapon present.
SOURCE: Michael Rand and Shannan Catalano, Table 7. Presence of Weapons in Violent Incidents, 2006, in Criminal Victimization, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2007, (accessed April 22, 2008)
No weapon3,822,42067.1%
Type not ascertained90,1601.6
Don't know438,8107.7%

The most recent data available in mid-2008 were by Caroline Wolf Harlow of the BJS, in Firearm Use by Offenders (February 2002, pub/pdf/fuo.pdf), a survey of prison inmates. Results of this survey show that 13.9% of those who carried a firearm during the offense for which they were serving time in 1997 bought their gun from a retail store, pawn shop, flea market, or gun show. This figure was down from 20.8% in 1991, when the previous survey was conducted. Another 39.6% acquired their firearms from family or friends, up from 33.8% in 1991. The remaining 39.2% acquired their firearms on the street from an illegal source, down from 40.8% 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 every 1,000 households. Jim Kessler and Lisa Kimbrough of the Americans for Gun Safety Foundation (AGSF; now known as the Third Way) explain in Stolen Firearms, Arming the Enemy (December 2002) that even though 687,857 of the weapons were later recovered, more than 1 million of these stolen firearms were unaccounted for as of 2002. From January to August 2002 alone, 82,387 firearms were stolen in the United States.

Many criminals get their guns from the black market (a market where products are bought and sold illegally). Sometimes, these 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 or gun trafficking (buying, moving, and selling guns illegally). The AGSF notes in Selling Crime: High Crime Gun Stores Fuel Criminals (January 2004, that between 1996 and 2000 half of all high-crime gun stores were located in five states: Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, Georgia, and Maryland. High-crime gun stores are those that sell firearms that are frequently recovered in crimes. The AGSF also notes that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has shown that approximately 1% of the nations gun stores are the source of 57% of the firearms traced to crimes.

The coalition Mayors against Illegal Guns, a group headed by the mayors of New York City and Boston (see Chapter 3), hired an investigative services firm to determine where criminals get their guns. The results of this investigation were published in Inside Straw Purchasing: How Criminals Get Guns Illegally (2008, http://wwwmayorsagainstillegalgunsorg/downloads/pdf/inside-straw-purchasespdf). The report presents findings on straw purchasing, a situation in which a person who would be denied a gun purchase, such as a convicted felon or an underage buyer, has another person (the straw purchaser) fill out the paperwork and obtain the gun for him or her.

Sometimes a straw purchaser is used when a person simply does not want a gun purchase listed in his or her name.

Inside Straw Purchasing explains that straw purchasing occurred frequently in easy stores. Straw purchasers

TABLE 5.13 Robbery, by type of weapon used and region, 2006
RegionTotal all weapons*FirearmsKnives or cutting instrumentsOther weaponsStrong-arm
*Because of rounding, the percentages may not add to 100.0.
SOURCE: Robbery Table 3. Robbery, Types of Weapons Used, Percent Distribution by Region, 2006, in Crime in the United States, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2007, (accessed April 23, 2008)
TABLE 5.14 Types of weapons used in aggravated assaults, by region, 2006
RegionTotal all weapons*FirearmsKnives or cutting instrumentsOther weapons (clubs, blunt objects, etc.)Personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.)
*Because of rounding, the percentages may not add to 100.0.
SOURCE: Aggravated Assault Table. Aggravated Assault, Types of Weapons Used, Percent Distribution by Region, 2006, in Crime in the United States, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2007, (accessed April 23, 2008)
TABLE 5.15 Weapons used by private citizens* in justifiable homicides, 2002-06
YearTotalTotal firearmsHandgunsRiflesShotgunsFirearms, type not statedKnives or cutting instrumentsOther dangerous weaponsPersonal weapons
*The killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen.
SOURCE: Expanded Homicide Data Table 14. Justifiable Homicide, by Weapon, Private Citizen, 2002-2006, in Crime in the United States, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2007, (accessed April 23, 2008)

Often paid for their purchases with both money and drugs, and bought many guns at one time. Gun dealers appear to be key in this illegal activity: some encourage straw purchases and actually coach straw purchasers, whereas others discourage the practice by asking many probing questions until the straw purchaser leaves the store. These dealers also train their employees how to spot straw purchases and thwart them.


Police Shootings

Firearms are a valuable aid to law enforcement officers. As mentioned previously, justifiable (excusable) homicide is defined as the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty or by another person while the felon is committing a crime. Table 5.19 shows the number of justifiable homicides by law enforcement between 2002 and 2006. Of the 376 justifiable homicides in 2006, all were committed with firearms: 326 with handguns, 21 with rifles, 11 with shotguns, and 18 with unspecified firearms. Police justifiably kill over three hundred felons each year. Most often, the felon is shot.

A Tool to Detect Gunfire

Some law enforcement officers, especially those who work in cities plagued by gangs and random shootings, have spoken of the frustration they feel when responding to reports of gunfire. Because it is difficult for the human ear to determine the direction from which a gunshot originates, callers cannot locate the source accurately and police officers are sometimes unable to respond appropriately. This increases the chance of serious injury or death to victims. Furthermore, once police finally arrive on the scene, the person with the gun may be already gone.

To help locate the source of gunfire to within twenty feet, acoustic sensors (devices similar to those used to detect earthquake epicenters) can be used. In June 1996 Redwood City, California, became one of the first communities to employ them. Mounted on buildings and telephone poles throughout the city, the sensors transmit

TABLE 5.16 Violent and property victimizations, by race of victim or race of head of household, 2006
Race of victimViolentProperty
aVictimization rates are per 1,000 persons age 12 or older or per 1,000 households.
bIncludes American Indians, Eskimo, Asian Pacific Islander if only one of these races is given.
cIncludes all persons of any race, indicating two or more races.
SOURCE: Michael Rand and Shannan Catalano, Table 5. Violent and Property Victimizations, by Race of Victim or Race of Head of Household, 2006, in Criminal Victimization, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2007, (accessed April 22, 2008)
White only201,524,0804,682,98023.296,382,97015,016,110155.8
Black only29,980,370980,40032.714,819,9702,721,330183.6
Other raceb12,849,300240,74018.75,506,430759,650138.0
Two or more      
TABLE 5.17 Violent victimization, by gender and age, 2006
*Victimization rates are per 1,000 persons age 12 or older or per 1,000 households.
SOURCE: Michael Rand and Shannan Catalano, Table 3. Violent Victimization, by Gender and Age, 2006, in Criminal Victimization, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2007, (accessed April 22, 2008)
65 or older35,578,530124,1203.5

the time of the gunshots to a central computer that displays the location. This allows police to respond to gunfire before police dispatchers begin to get phone calls reporting the shots. According to field tests conducted by the Redwood City Police Department, the sensors identified gunfire locations within seconds.

Mapping and communication systems work with the sensors to identify hot spots and to call homes and businesses in the area when shots are detected. Those called respond to automated questions by pressing buttons on their phones. This process helps law enforcement officers determine who needs help and who would be useful to interview for additional information.

In 2001 the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department began using the urban gunshot detection system in certain areas. According to Ali Winston, in City Picks Gunshot Detection System: Newark Aims to Cut Police Response Time (Newark Star-Ledger, April 30, 2008), by 2008 twenty-seven U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., were using the Shotspotters Gunshot Location System. Newark, New Jersey, was to be the twenty-eighth city to use this particular system. Other companies have provided systems to cities throughout the country as well.

Targeted Patrols Reduce Gun Crime

Faced with rising rates of violent crime in the early 1990s, Kansas City, Missouri, was the first to experiment with the use of directed patrols to reduce violent crime. The experiment was conducted by the Kansas City Police Department and evaluated by Lawrence W. Sherman, James W. Shaw, and Dennis P. Rogan in The Kansas City Gun Experiment (Research in Brief, January 1995) and by Sherman and Rogan in The Effects of Gun Seizures on Gun Violence: Hot Spots Patrol in Kansas City (Justice Quarterly, vol. 12, no. 4, December 1995). Kansas City police officers were trained to search for illegal guns, and then they assigned these additional law enforcement officers to a police beat with high levels of violent crime. Their job was to stop and search individuals for illegal guns. Their efforts led to a 65% increase in seizures of illegal firearms. This in turn was associated with a 50% decrease in gun-related crime in the targeted area.

After noting the success of the Kansas City program, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, introduced targeted patrols to reduce gun crime in high-crime areas of their cities. Both have had success in reducing gun violence with this program. According to Jacqueline Cohen and Jens Ludwig of the Brookings Institution, in Policing against Illegal Guns (December 2002), research results suggest that the program worked by deterring criminals from carrying and using guns in public places rather than by removing criminals and their guns from the street.

David Ress reports in Police Seizures of Illegal Guns Is on the Rise (Richmond Times Dispatch, March 25, 2004) that by 2004 Richmond, Virginia, had introduced targeted patrols and increased illegal gun seizures by 24% in the first three months of the year, compared to the same time for the previous year. Syracuse, New York, began targeted patrols for illegal guns in 2005. By 2008, targeted patrols existed in many cities to reduce a variety of crimes, including the possession of illegal guns.

Police and Smart Gun Technology

Most police officers are armed with high-powered weaponry. To ensure officer safety, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) wants to see law enforcement officers equipped with better weapons, so-called smart guns that could only be fired by the officer who owned the gun. The NIJ provided funding for the research and development of a Secure Weapon System. In 2003 an Australian-based research and development company partnered with

TABLE 5.18 Rates of personal violent crimes, by type of crime and annual family income of victims, 2005
 Rate per 1,000 persons age 12 and over
Type of crimeLess than $7,500$7,500-$14,999$15,000-$24,999$25,000-$34,999$35,000-$49,999$50,000-$74,999$75,000 or more
All personal crimes40.928.
Note: Detail may not add to total shown because of rounding.
Excludes data on persons whose family income level was not ascertained.
*Estimate is based on about 10 or fewer sample cases.
aIncludes verbal threats of rape.
bIncludes threats.
SOURCE: Table 14. Personal Crimes, 2005: Victimization Rates for Persons Age 12 and Over, by Type of Crime and Annual Family Income of Victims, in Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2005 Statistical Tables, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2006, (accessed April 22, 2008)
Crimes of violence37.726.530.126.122.421.116.4
Completed violence14.410.
Attempted/threatened violence23.316.020.416.615.715.111.4
Rape/sexual assault2.2*0.6*1.4*1.70.9*0.5*0.6*
Rape/attempted rape1.9*0.6*0.7*0.9*0.7*0.5*0.4*
Attempted rapea0.0*0.2*0.3*0.0*0.3*0.4*0.4*
Sexual assaultb0.3*0.0*0.7*0.8*0.2*0.0*0.2*
Completed/property taken3.7*
With injury1.8*1.5*1.5*0.6*0.6*0.2*0.4*
Without injury1.9*2.60.7*1.5*0.8*1.0*1.2
Attempted to take property2.0*0.8*1.3*0.8*1.2*0.6*0.5*
With injury0.7*0.0*0.7*0.3*0.4*0.2*0.1*
Without injury1.3*0.8*0.6*0.5*0.7*0.4*0.4*
With injury2.9*
Threatened with weapon6.
With minor injury6.
Without injury14.210.814.012.511.411.28.7
Purse snatching/pocket picking3.2*1.6*1.1*1.0*1.1*0.6*1.0
Population age 12 and over8,367,49014,798,20022,414,53022,504,20 030,575,74035,692,93052,979,190
TABLE 5.19 Weapons used by law enforcement officers in justifiable homicides, 2002-06
YearTotalTotal firearmsHandgunsRiflesShotgunsFirearms, type not statedKnives or cutting instrumentsOther dangerous weaponsPersonal weapons
Note: Justifiable homicide is the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.
SOURCE: Expanded Homicide Data Table 13. Justifiable Homicide, by Weapon, Law Enforcement, 2002-2006, in Crime in the United States, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2007, (accessed April 23, 2008)

the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and aimed to perfect this version of the smart gun. By early 2005 a system had been developed in which electronic computerized sensors embedded in the guns grip distinguished known from unknown users.

In 2004 the Florida-based implantable microchip company Verichip and the South Carolina gun maker FN Manufacturing joined forces to develop another version of a smart gun. In this firearm, a scanning device in the gun would match with a microchip implanted in a police officers hand. The gun could be fired only if the officer and the gun matched.

Objections to smart gun technology came from both gun control advocates and gun owners. Gun control

TABLE 5.20 Arrest trends, by offense, 1997-2006
[7,769 agencies; 2006 estimated population 172,264,090; 1997 estimated population 153,673,448]
 Number of persons arrested
 Total all agesUnder 18 years of age18 years of age and over
Offense charged19972006Percent change19972006Percent change19972006Percent change
aDoes not include suspicion.
bViolent crimes are offenses of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Property crimes are offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor
vehicle theft, and arson.
*Less than one-tenth of 1 percent.
SOURCE: Table 32. Ten-Year Arrest Trends, Totals, 1997-2006, in Crime in the United States, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2007, (accessed April 23, 2008)
Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter9,0007,515-16.51,224710-427,7766,805-12.5
Forcible rape17,77714,127-20.53,0472,104-30.914,73012,023-18.4
Aggravated assault299,789261,040-12.943,51734,434-20.9256,272226,606-11.6
Motor vehicle theft91,79770,934-22.736,94017,342-53.154,85753,592-2.3
Violent crimeb402,372353,343-12.270,63356,467-20.1331,739296,876-10.5
Property crimeb1,187,674896,146-24.5424,042237,458-44763,632658,688-13.7
Other assaults777,350742,328-4.5138,719141,9862.4638,631600,342-6
Forgery and counterfeiting71,04262,098-12.65,0522,054-59.365,99060,044-9
Stolen property; buying, receiving,         
Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.122,773115,266-6.130,14027,198-9.892,63388,068-4.9
Prostitution and commercialized vice48,14137,719-21.668878814.547,45336,931-22.2
Sex offenses (except forcible rape and         
Drug abuse violations884,5981,045,37718.2122,020108,087-11.4762,578937,29022.9
Offenses against the family and children85,78672,826-15.15,7752,978-48.480,01169,848-12.7
Driving under the influence814,757809,753-0.610,94511,0741.2803,812798,679-0.6
Liquor laws356,230352,636-192,36678,530-15263,864274,1063.9
Disorderly conduct412,053387,696-5.9109,956118,1607.5302,097269,536-10.8
All other offenses (except traffic)2,190,3502,357,2867.6280,216227,376-18.91,910,1342,129,91011.5
Curfew and loitering law violations116,34780,440-30.9116,34780,440-30.9

advocates feared that when such weapons became available to the general public, guns would be seen as safe enough to leave lying around the house and gun sales would grow. Gun owners said the new technology, which ought to be dictated by the market and not by legislatures, would make weapons less reliable and more expensive. Some contended that the safety measures to be provided were an encroachment on gun owners rights and that smart technology was just the first step in banning handguns that did not use the technology.

Rick Hepp notes in Smart Gun Still Hasnt Hit Mark (Newhouse News Service, April 24, 2008) that as of 2008 smart gun technology was not yet ready for use. The Australian firm working with the NJIT was no longer on the project, but the NJIT had perfected its smart gun to 99% accuracy. While this sounds acceptable, 100% accuracy is required. Based on the results of a 2005 study, the National Academy of Engineering explained that the development of smart gun technology posed extreme technical difficulties. The academy predicted that the technology would not be available until 2018.


Weapons offenses are violations of statutes or regulations to control deadly weapons, which include firearms and their ammunition, silencers, explosives, and certain knives. All fifty states, many cities and towns, and the federal government have laws concerning deadly weapons, including restrictions on their possession, carrying, use, sales, manufacturing, importing, and exporting.

Table 5.20 shows arrest trends for crimes committed in 1997 and in 2006, based on reports from 7,769 law

enforcement agencies. Total arrests across all age groups declined 4.7% during this ten-year period, and arrests for weapons offenses across all age groups fell 6.1%.

Characteristics of Weapons Offenders

Table 5.20 shows that the number of arrests of people under the age of eighteen for weapons offenses was 30,140 in 1997 and 27,198 in 2006, accounting for 24.5% and23.6%, respectively, of all arrests for weapons offenses. During the 19972006 period, arrests for weapons offenses within this group dropped 9.8%. (Note: The arrest numbers are numbers of arrests, not numbers of people arrested. Thus, if a person was arrested more than once during the year, all arrests are included.)

Arrests by race and age for crimes committed in 2006 are shown in Table 5.21; the data for 2006 differ slightly from the data in Table 5.20 because more law enforcement agencies (11,249) reported the arrest figures used in Table 5.21 than in Table 5.20 (7,769). According to the U.S. Census Bureau (January 2, 2008,, whites made up 80.1% of the population in 2006, but Table 5.21 shows they accounted for 57.7% of the arrests for weapons offenses across all age groups. African-Americans, who made up 12.8% of the population, accounted for 40.6% of the arrests for weapons offenses across all age groups.

Comparing the percentage of arrests of people aged eighteen and under to people aged eighteen and older for weapons offenses, underage whites accounted for a higher percentage of weapons arrests in their age group (61.1%) than did adult whites in their age group (56.6%). The converse is true for African-Americans. For weapons offenses, underage African-Americans accounted for a lower percentage of weapons arrests in their age group (36.8%) than did adult African-Americans (41.8%).


Many of the data in this chapter demonstrate that the criminal misuse of guns by young people is a serious problem. A major federal effort to deal with this problem was launched in 1996 by the ATF's National Tracing Center. Called the Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative, the program traces firearms to their original point of sale when a trace is requested by local law enforcement agencies. The program aims to reduce the availability of guns to young criminals, but includes the goal of limiting the availability of guns to all criminals. It focuses on how criminals obtain firearms and targets their suppliers for possible prosecution in federal court, where the penalties are stiffer. The ATF is not able to trace guns manufactured before 1968, most surplus military weapons, imported guns without the importers name, stolen guns, and guns missing a legible serial number. Research by the ATF shows that a high percentage of guns that had obliterated serial numbers and were used in crimes were originally purchased as part of a multiple sale by a licensed dealer and then illegally trafficked. The ATF reveals in Crime Gun Trace Reports (2000): National Report (July 2002, that obliteration is more common for semiautomatic pistols and crime guns recovered from youths and juveniles.

Beginning in 2003, the ATF was legally prohibited from publishing certain statistics concerning the production and import of firearms, and it was illegal for the agency to report on the sales of multiple handguns and firearms tracing statistics. (See Chapter 2 for further information on this prohibition.) As a result, the most recent crime firearms tracing statistics date back to 2000. Table 5.22 shows crime firearms tracing data for 2000 (88,570 guns were traced), broken down by the age of possessor and the type of firearm. Twenty percent (18,085) of youths aged eighteen to twenty-four and 4.6% (4,112) of juveniles aged seventeen and younger were gun possessors.

TABLE 5.21 Arrests, by race and age group, 2006
[11,249 agencies; 2006 estimated population 216,685,152]
 Total arrestsPercent distributiona
Offense chargedTotalWhiteBlackAmerican Indian or Alaskan NativeAmerican Asian or Pacific IslanderTotalWhiteBlackIndian or Alaskan NativeAsian or Pacific Islander
aBecause of rounding, the percentages may not add to 100.0.
bViolent crimes are offenses of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Property crimes are offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.
SOURCE: Table 43. Arrests, by Race, 2006, in Crime in the United States, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2007 (accessed April 23, 2008)
Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter9,8014,5954,99011010610046.950.91.11.1
Forcible rape17,04211,1225,53619518910065.332.51.11.1
Aggravated assault326,721206,417112,6453,9493,71010063.
Motor vehicle theft100,61263,09035,1169781,42810062.734.911.4
Violent crimeb446,957261,553175,7124,8654,82710058.539.31.11.1
Property crimeb1,133,299773,213333,34212,59414,15010068.
Other assaults949,940619,825306,07813,09710,94010065.
Forgery and counterfeiting79,25855,56222,33743392610070.
Stolen property; buying, receiving, possessing89,85058,06630,26767084710064.633.70.70.9
Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.147,31284,92959,8631,1341,38610057.740.60.80.9
Prostitution and commercialized vice59,61633,82723,6125691,60810056.739.612.7
Sex offenses (except forcible rape and prostitution)63,04846,19415,46564074910073.324.511.2
Drug abuse violations1,376,792875,101483,8868,1989,60710063.635.10.60.7
Offenses against the family and children91,61861,27828,0861,67857610066.930.71.80.6
Driving under the influence1,034,651914,22695,26013,48411,68110088.
Liquor laws466,323398,06850,03512,8315,38910085.410.72.81.2
Disorderly conduct517,264325,991179,7337,6063,9341006334.71.50.8
All other offenses (except traffic)2,906,3111,962,017872,57137,93533,78810067.5301.31.2
Curfew and loitering law violations114,16669,62442,4968141,2321006137.20.71.1
 Arrests under 18Percent distributiona
Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter95637456661010039.159.20.61
Forcible rape2,5071,592863302210063.534.41.20.9
Aggravated assault44,31424,69718,65243952610055.742.111.2
Motor vehicle theft25,28513,57610,96526547910053.743.411.9
Violent crimeb73,83734,73737,65059185910047510.81.2
Property crimeb297,341197,22591,8063,2465,06410066.330.91.11.7
Other assaults181,288106,78570,6391,8991,96510058.93911.1
Forgery and counterfeiting2,5681,892617213810073.7240.81.5
Stolen property; buying, receiving,          
Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.34,61121,14212,74528543910061.
Prostitution and commercialized vice1,207533651101310044.
Sex offenses (except forcible rape and          
Drug abuse violations143,26797,80043,0801,1261,26110068.330.10.80.9
Offenses against the family and children3,6212,737823263510075.622.70.71
Driving under the influence14,22513,32850623215910093.
Liquor laws102,23093,3684,9872,6351,24010091.
Disorderly conduct152,86988,42061,4381,7991,21210057.840.21.20.8
All other offenses (except traffic)278,902200,74270,7713,1044,2851007225.41.11.5
Curfew and loitering law violations114,16669,62442,4968141,2321006137.20.71.1
 Arrests 18 and overPercent distributiona
Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter8,8454,2214,4241049610047.7501.21.1
Forcible rape14,5359,5304,67316516710065.632.11.11.1
Aggravated assault282,407181,72093,9933,5103,18410064.333.31.21.1
Motor vehicle theft75,32749,51424,15171394910065.732.10.91.3
Violent crimeb373,120226,816138,0624,2743,96810060.8371.11.1
Property crimeb835,958575,988241,5369,3489,08610068.928.91.11.1
Other assaults768,652513,040235,43911,1988,97510066.730.61.51.2
Forgery and counterfeiting76,69053,67021,7204128881007028.30.51.2
Stolen property; buying, receiving,          
Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.112,70163,78747,11884994710056.641.80.80.8
Prostitution and commercialized vice58,40933,29422,9615591,5951005739.312.7
Sex offenses (except forcible rape and          
Drug abuse violations1,233,525777,301440,8067,0728,3461006335.70.60.7
Offenses against the family and children87,99758,54127,2631,65254110066.5311.90.6
Driving under the influence1,020,426900,89894,75413,25211,52210088.
Liquor laws364,093304,70045,04810,1964,14910083.712.42.81.1
Disorderly conduct364,395237,571118,2955,8072,72210065.
All other offenses (except traffic)2,627,4091,761,275801,80034,83129,5031006730.51.31.1
Curfew and loitering law violations
TABLE 5.22 Firearm type by age group of possessor, 2000
 Juvenile (ages 17 & younger)Youth (ages 18-24)Adult (ages 25 & older)Age unknownAll ages
Firearm typeNumberPercentNumberPercentNumberPercentNumberPercentNumberPercent
Notes: Crime Gun Trace Reports (2002) is the third such report published by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). In mid-2006, these data were the most recent available on major types of guns used in crime. The ATF stated in response to an inquiry that it is no longer legally able to release such data to the public. In March 2006 a bill was introduced in Congress to overturn the legal ruling that blocks public access to this type of information. Not only did this bill fail, but further restrictions were also added to access.
SOURCE: Table 2. Firearm Type by Age Group of Possessor," in Crime Gun Trace Reports (2000): National Report, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative, July 2002, (accessed April 23, 2008)
All firearm types4,112100.018,085100.032,044100.034,329100.088,570100.0
Semiautomatic pistol2,33256.711,03661.015,03246.915,95246.544,35250.1