clear Section V: Strategies To Deter Illegal Gun Possession and Carrying

Deterring Illegal Gun Possession

Data from recent criminal justice research tell a straightforward but daunting story: Across the country, more and more youth are acquiring and carrying guns illegally. They are doing so to protect themselves, to engage in gang- and drug-related criminal activity, and to gain respect. Research also shows that gaining access to a gun -- from home, family members, or friends, or by theft or street purchase -- is easy.

The programs profiled in this chapter seek to reduce firearm possession and carrying by juveniles and others who are not legally entitled to own or carry guns. These programs focus largely on making it harder for youth to gain access to guns, including reducing the number of guns in a community.

To accomplish this goal, some communities have limited the number of Federal firearms licensees (FFL's) that are allowed to sell firearms. Zoning and other municipal ordinances that restrict permissible gun sale locations (e.g., in residential and school zones) and impose conditions on gun sales are effective strategies used by many jurisdictions to reduce the degree to which communities are saturated with guns.

Another approach to restricting juveniles' access to guns has been the development of " silent witness " or " weapons hotline " initiatives. In many cities, people are encouraged, through the promise of anonymity and a cash reward, to call a special toll-free telephone number to report persons in possession of guns. A related approach is the " Consent to Search
and Seize " initiative of the St. Louis Police Department, which has enabled police to remove guns from the homes of many youth in that city.

Other strategies profiled in this section make effective use of scarce law enforcement and community resources by focusing on crime " hotspots " where disproportionate amounts of crime and violence are occurring. Still others monitor probationers and parolees (groups likely to be involved in gun crimes) through unannounced home visits and searches. Finally, this section includes a description of several programs that combine prevention education, searches, and sanctions to keep guns out of schools.

Intentionally not included in this section, but worthy of discussion, are the gun buyback programs that were implemented in many communities in the early 1990's. Evaluations of these programs suggested that they did not meaningfully reduce juvenile access to guns since many of the guns turned in were either old or defective and individuals sometimes used their buyback payments to buy better guns.1 Nevertheless, when implemented in concert with a public media campaign about safe gun storage, gun buy-back programs may serve to mobilize the community and alert parents to the dangers of their children's access to guns.


1. R. Rosenfeld, " Gun buy-back: Crime control or community mobilization," in Under Fire: Gun Buy-Backs, Exchanges and Amnesty Programs, edited by A. Platkin, Washington, DC: Police Executive Research Forum, 1996.

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Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence OJJDP Report