Study: Four of Five Criminals Acquire Guns Illegally

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A study conducted by the Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health shows that four out of five criminals acquire their guns illegally, while one out of five acquires them through legal means, prior to building up a criminal record.

The Washington Post published the study, which looked at guns recovered from Pittsburgh crime scenes in 2008 and found that “in approximately 8 out of 10 cases, the perpetrator was not a lawful gun owner but rather in illegal possession of a weapon that belonged to someone else.”

Roughly one out of five guns, 18 percent, were used in crimes by the people who actually purchased them. This latter group would consist of people with criminal intent but no criminal record to prevent them from passing a background check. Such people have legally acquired weapons, then killed innocents at Virginia Tech University (2007), Fort Hood (2009), Aurora movie theater (2012), DC Navy Yard (2013), Fort Hood (2014), Chattanooga (20105), Umpqua Community College (2015), Orlando (2016), among others.

In August 2015, the University of Chicago Crime Lab released a similar study that looked at criminal acquisition of firearms in Chicago. As with the Pittsburgh study, researchers found that criminals in Chicago get their guns in ways that are hardest to detect. According to the Chicago Sun Timescrime lab co-director Harold Pollack said, “Some of the pathways [regarding guns] people are concerned about don’t seem so dominant.” He also said very few individuals jailed on gun charges indicated using gun shows or the Internet to acquire firearms. Rather, they get the guns in undetectable ways on the street. Pollack added that the inmates know they run the risk of being caught by police but “were less concerned about getting caught by the cops than being put in the position of not having a gun to defend themselves and then getting shot.”

The Chicago study showed that some of the city’s gangs have an individual, or individuals, who maintain a clean criminal record so they can have a Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID) and make firearm purchases. These individuals then pass the guns to the gang members, who could not legally make a purchase. Such a transaction is called a “straw purchase” and is already illegal. But illegal activity is never off-limits for criminals.

The quick takeaway from both these studies is that more gun control will not do anything to prevent criminals from arming themselves and carrying out evil deeds.

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at


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