Effects of undercover police stings of gun dealers on the supply of new guns to criminals

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To assess the effects of undercover police stings and lawsuits against gun dealers suspected of facilitating illegal gun sales in three US cities (Chicago, Detroit, Gary) on the flow of new firearms to criminals.


An interrupted time series design and negative binomial regression analyses were used to test for temporal change in the recovery of guns used in crimes within one year of retail sale in both intervention and comparison cities.


The stings were associated with an abrupt 46.4% reduction in the flow of new guns to criminals in Chicago (95% confidence interval, −58.6% to −30.5%), and with a gradual reduction in new crime guns recovered in Detroit. There was no significant change associated with the stings in Gary, and no change in comparison cities that was coincident with the stings in Chicago and Detroit.


The announcement of police stings and lawsuits against suspect gun dealers appeared to have reduced the supply of new guns to criminals in Chicago significantly, and may have contributed to beneficial effects in Detroit. Given the important role that gun stores play in supplying guns to criminals in the US, further efforts of this type are warranted and should be evaluated.

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