DOJ Report Reveals A Whopping Percentage Of Criminals' Firearms Obtained Through Underground Market

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A new report issued by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics that examines where criminals get their guns offers a disturbing statistic: Data showed that a whopping 43% of the prisoners surveyed had obtained it off the street or from the underground market, while 7% had found it at the scene of the crime and 6% had stolen it. Additionally, 25% had obtained it from a family member or friend, or as a gift. The survey added, “Among prisoners who possessed a firearm during the offense for which they were imprisoned, 7% of state and 10% of federal prisoners serving a sentence in 2016 bought or traded for the firearm from a gun shop or gun store.”

Only 7% of state and 8% of federal prisoners who had a firearm during their crime bought their firearm under their own name from a licensed firearm dealer at a retail source; out of that number, the majority claimed there had been a background check.

The survey noted, “Among prisoners who possessed a gun during their offense, 90% did not obtain it from a retail source.” Only a miniscule 1.3% of prisoners obtained a gun from a retail source and used it during their offense.

The survey found that roughly 20% of state and federal prisoners who had a firearm during their offense had gotten it with the intent to use it during the crime. The survey stated, “Among state prisoners who possessed a gun during their offense, 27% killed someone with it.”

The survey stated that roughly “29% of state and 36% of federal prisoners serving a sentence for a violent offense in 2016 possessed a firearm during the crime. About a quarter of state (23%) and federal (25%) prisoners serving time for a violent offense used a firearm during the crime.”

According to the survey, the demographics of those who possessed a firearm during their offense broke down this way:

Male prisoners were more likely than female prisoners to have possessed a firearm during their crime. About a fifth of male state and federal prisoners serving a sentence in 2016 possessed a firearm during the crime. Males in state prisons in 2016 were about 2.5 times as likely (22%) as females in state prisons (9%) to have possessed a firearm during the crime for which they were imprisoned. In federal prisons, males (21%) were about three times as likely as females (7%) to have possessed a firearm during their crime. Almost 3 in 10 (29%) black prisoners serving a sentence in state prison in 2016 possessed a firearm during their crime. White (12%) and Hispanic (21%) state prisoners were less likely to have possessed a firearm during their crime. Similarly, white (17%) and Hispanic (13%) federal prisoners serving a sentence in 2016 were less likely to have possessed a firearm during the crime than black (29%) federal prisoners. State prisoners who served in the military were less likely to have possessed a firearm during their crime (16%) than state prisoners who had not served in the military (21%).

The survey explained that there were certain prisoners who were not interviewed because they might incriminate themselves, writing:

This report excludes prisoners who were awaiting trial (i.e., unconvicted) or a revocation hearing or who were held for other reasons. Unconvicted prisoners, such as those awaiting trial or being held for other reasons like safekeeping or a civil commitment, were excluded from this report because they were not asked questions about firearm possession to protect against self-incrimination.

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