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Wintemute GJ, Wright MA, Drake CM, Beaumont JJ. Subsequent Criminal Activity Among Violent Misdemeanants Who Seek to Purchase Handguns: Risk Factors and Effectiveness of Denying Handgun Purchase. JAMA. 2001;285(8):1019–1026. doi:10.1001/jama.285.8.1019
Author Affiliations: Violence Prevention Research Program, University of California, Davis.
Context Some states prohibit the purchase of handguns by persons convicted of
selected misdemeanor crimes, but most do not. California has denied handgun
purchases by violent misdemeanants since 1991; the effectiveness of these
policies is unknown.
Objective To determine the risk factors for new criminal activity among violent
misdemeanants who seek to purchase handguns and whether denial of handgun
purchase by violent misdemeanants affects their risk of arrest for new crimes,
particularly gun and/or violent crimes.
Design Retrospective, population-based cohort study.
Setting and Subjects Persons aged 21 to 34 years who sought to purchase a handgun through
a licensed dealer in California during 1989-1991 and who had at least 1 violent
misdemeanor conviction in the preceding 10 years. The study cohorts consisted
of 986 persons whose purchase applications were made in 1991 and were denied
(denied persons) and 787 persons whose purchase applications were made in
1989-1990 and were approved (purchasers).
Main Outcome Measures Incidence and relative risk of first arrest in California for new gun
and/or violent crimes and for nongun, nonviolent crimes during a 3-year follow-up
after actual or attempted handgun purchase.
Results During the 3-year follow-up, 546 (33.0%) of 1654 subjects with follow-up
information were arrested for a new crime, including 296 (31.9%) of 927 denied
persons and 250 (34.4%) of 727 purchasers. After adjusting for differences
in age, sex, and prior criminal history, purchasers were more likely than
denied persons to be arrested for new gun and/or violent crimes (relative
hazard [RH], 1.29; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04-1.60), but not for nongun,
nonviolent crimes (RH, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.78-1.19). In both groups, risk of arrest
was strongly related to age and number of convictions accrued prior to actual
or attempted handgun purchase.
Conclusion Our results indicate that denial of handgun purchase to violent misdemeanants
is associated with a specific decrease in risk of arrest for new gun and/or
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