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June 12, 1996

Strategic Thinking About Gun Markets and Violence

JAMA. 1996;275(22):1765-1767. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530460069035

Handguns, like cars, are durable, dangerous commodities, long prevalent in American households, with millions sold new every year. But unlike cars, handguns are the subject of an acrimonious national debate concerning appropriate restrictions on commerce, ownership, and use. The principal animus for this debate is the link between handguns and crime; they are, after all, the principal tool in lethal assaults, but for many people they are also a valued tool for self-defense against violent predators. The potential for both good and ill underlies the apparently conflicting trends in the policy arena: While in recent years a number of states have eased restrictions on carrying concealed guns, the federal government and some states have taken steps to regulate handgun sales more closely and crack down on illicit gun trafficking. Yet both trends arguably fit the overarching objective, broadly supported by the American public,1 of preserving legitimate uses while suppressing