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Wintemute GJ, Drake CM, Beaumont JJ, Wright MA, Parham CA. Prior Misdemeanor Convictions as a Risk Factor for Later Violent and Firearm-Related Criminal Activity Among Authorized Purchasers of Handguns. JAMA. 1998;280(24):2083–2087. doi:10.1001/jama.280.24.2083
From the Violence Prevention Research Program, University of California, Davis.
Context.— Under current federal law, many persons with
prior convictions for misdemeanor offenses pass criminal records
background checks and legally purchase handguns.
Objective.— To determine whether authorized handgun
purchasers with prior misdemeanor convictions are more likely than
those with no criminal history to be charged with new crimes,
particularly offenses involving firearms and violence.
Design.— Retrospective cohort study.
Setting and Participants.— A total of 5923 authorized
purchasers of handguns in California in 1977 who were younger than 50
years, identified by random sample.
Main Outcome Measures.— Incidence and relative risk (RR) of
first charges for new criminal offenses after handgun purchase.
Results.— Of the 5923 authorized purchasers, 3128 had
at least 1 conviction for a misdemeanor offense prior to handgun
purchase, and 2795 had no prior criminal history. Follow-up to the end
of the 15-year observation period or to death was available for 77.8%
of study subjects and for a median 8.9 years for another 9.6%. Handgun
purchasers with at least 1 prior misdemeanor conviction were more than
7 times as likely as those with no prior criminal history to be charged
with a new offense after handgun purchase (RR, 7.5; 95% confidence
interval [CI], 6.6-8.7). Among men, those with 2 or more prior
convictions for misdemeanor violence were at greatest risk for
nonviolent firearm-related offenses such as weapon carrying (RR, 11.7;
95% CI, 6.8-20.0), violent offenses generally (RR, 10.4; 95% CI,
6.9-15.8), and Violent Crime Index offenses (murder or non-negligent
manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, or aggravated assault) (RR, 15.1;
95% CI, 9.4-24.3). However, even handgun purchasers with only 1 prior
misdemeanor conviction and no convictions for offenses involving
firearms or violence were nearly 5 times as likely as those with no
prior criminal history to be charged with new offenses involving
firearms or violence.
Conclusions.— Handgun purchasers with prior
misdemeanor convictions are at increased risk for future criminal
activity, including violent and firearm-related
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