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Letters |

Denial of Handgun Purchase to Violent Misdemeanants—Reply

Garen J. Wintemute, MD, MPH; Mona A. Wright, MPH; Christiana M. Drake, PhD; James J. Beaumont, PhD
JAMA. 2001;285(21):2715-2716. doi:10.1001/jama.285.21.2715.
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In Reply: Dr Blackman grossly underestimates gun dealers' importance as a source of crime guns. Two surveys of prisoners, including the one he cites, show that those who commit serious crimes with guns are nearly as likely to buy those guns from a "retail outlet" as to get them from "the black market, a drug dealer, or a fence."1,2

He implies that persons other than violent misdemeanants constitute much of our study population. He is wrong; of all 1802 persons denied handguns in California in 1991 for prior misdemeanors, 1487 (82.5%) had been convicted of assault and 304 (16.9%) of brandishing a weapon or discharging a firearm.3 If, as he suggests, "only the most compliant or ignorant" misdemeanants tried to buy guns from dealers after they became ineligible, selection bias could have affected our results, but more violent misdemeanants tried to buy handguns in 1991 than in 1989 and 1990 combined; this is inconsistent with his suggestion. He criticizes our unavoidable age cutoff, but arrest rates dropped by 50% even in the restricted age range we studied. Is the National Rifle Association (NRA) suddenly concerned about a surge in crimes committed by those who are middle-aged and older?

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