NEWS BLOG: Crime guns’ origins vary


This summer has seen plenty of news devoted to gun violence, from the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado, to the high number of fatal shootings in the City of Rochester.

Underlying each incident is a question: Where do these guns come from? In the Aurora movie theater incident, the alleged shooter purchased the guns legally (see this New York Times article for information about his arsenal.)

In Rochester, it’s a different picture. Some of the guns used in crimes – the offenses are not limited to murders and include robberies, assaults, drug possession or sale, and simple possession – fall into a legal gray area. In 2009, Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Public Safety Initiatives issued a report focusing on Rochester’s illegal guns and their sources.

The report said that about 15 percent of guns seized by the Rochester Police Department were reported stolen. The 2009 report didn’t provide a specific count of the seized guns, but data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Tobacco says that 878 firearms were recovered in Rochester in 2011.

The 2009 RIT report says that many of the guns used in Rochester crimes are transferred from a legal owner to an “illegal possessor”; one example would be giving a handgun to someone who doesn’t have a pistol permit. And police report that the guns are commonly exchanged for drugs, says the report.

The report also says that most guns used in local crimes come from the local area and are not brought in from other states.

Recent data from the ATF back up that conclusion. The ATF’s 2011 statistics show that police across New York recovered 8,793 crime guns last year. The majority of them were initially sold in New York.

In an Associated Press article, Citizens Crime Commission of New York President Richard Aborn says that there’s an upstate-downstate split in crime gun origins. Most of the guns used in upstate crimes come from within the state, while in New York City the guns often come from states along the Eastern Seaboard.



  1. I first feel that it’s best that I state that I’m not anti-gun. I believe that guns are safe in the hands of responsible owners. Then there are the guns on the street. Though most crimes are committed with illegal guns, most of those guns were legal at one time or another in the first place. This means that somewhere along the line, there was an irresponsible gun owner out there.

  2. So far I have been unable to locate online a link to any authoritative study that connects gun related crimes (perhaps just murder and robbery) to gun ownership. In other words:

    1) what percentage of such crimes are, like the Aurora shootings, committed by gun owners who acquired their guns legally?

    2) what percentage were committed by individuals who bought or otherwise obtained their guns from legal owners with that owners consent?

    3) what percentage of such crimes were committed by individuals who stole their weapons from the legal owner?

    4) what percentage of such crimes were committed using guns which were purchased illegally?

    Without these figures how is America to determine whether we need to ignore the cliches and ranting of the NRA types and tighten up the restrictions on legal gun ownership, or whether the problem is better addressed in finding ways to stifle the trafficking in illegal guns…..or both?

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