Where the Guns Come From: The Gun Industry and Gun Commerce


Publication Date: January 2002

Publisher: The Future of Children

Author(s): Garen J. Wintemute

Research Area: Law and ethics; Social conditions

Keywords: federal gun laws; handguns; youth gun use; illegal gun markets

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


Under federal law, it is illegal for youth under age 18 to purchase rifles or shotguns, and for those under age 21 to purchase handguns. However, fatality and injury statistics clearly show that guns are finding their way into young people's hands. Many of these youth obtain guns through illegal gun markets.

This article focuses on how guns in the United States are manufactured, marketed, and sold. It shows how the legal and illegal gun markets are intimately connected and make guns easily accessible to youth.

Certain guns, especially inexpensive, poorly made small handguns, are particularly attractive to criminals and youth. The author observes that several policy innovations--including increased regulation of licensed firearms dealers, intensified screening of prospective buyers, regulation of private sales, gun licensing and registration, and bans on some types of weapons--hold promise for decreasing the flow of guns into the hands of youth.