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The criminal purchase of firearm ammunition
  1. G E Tita1,
  2. A A Braga2,
  3. G Ridgeway3,
  4. G L Pierce4
  1. 1Criminology, Law and Society, University of California–Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA
  2. 2John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  3. 3Statistics Group, RAND, Santa Monica, CA, USA
  4. 4College of Criminal Justice, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor G E Tita
 University of California–Irvine, Criminology, Law, and Society, 2307 Social Ecology II, Irvine, CA 92697-7080, USA; gtita{at}


Objective: Laws that prohibit certain individuals from owning firearms also pertain to ammunition. Whereas retail sales of firearms to criminals are regularly disrupted by instant background checks, sales of ammunition are essentially unchecked and the rate at which criminals acquire ammunition is unknown. This research describes the ammunition market and estimates the rate at which criminals are acquiring ammunition.

Design: Criminal background checks conducted on individuals purchasing ammunition in the City of Los Angeles in April and May 2004.

Setting: Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Subjects: Ammunition purchasers.

Main outcome measures: Criminal activity that prohibits one from owning, purchasing, or possessing ammunition.

Results: 2.6% (95% CI 1.9% to 3.2%) of ammunition purchasers had a prior felony conviction or another condition that prohibited them from possessing ammunition. During the study period prohibited possessors purchased 10 050 rounds of ammunition in Los Angeles.

Conclusions: These estimates suggest that monitoring ammunition transactions may help reduce the supply of ammunition to criminals and the frequency of injuries from felonious gun assaults. Such a record can also provide information for generating leads on illegal firearm possession.

  • ATF, Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives
  • DOJ, Department of Justice
  • FFL, Federal Firearms Licensee
  • LAPD, Los Angeles Police Department
  • ammunition
  • firearms
  • prohibited possessors
  • gun policy
  • violence

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  • Competing interests: none.