Individuals – Ridgeway et al. (2011)

Study Reference:

Ridgeway, G., Braga, A. A., Tita, G., & Pierce, G. L. (2011). Intervening in gun markets: An experiment to assess the impact of targeted gun-law messaging. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 7(1), 103-109.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; Focused; Highly proactive; Very rigorous; No evidence of an effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study tests the impact of targeting new gun buyers with a public safety message aimed at improving gun law awareness. Starting in August 2007, gun buyers initiating transactions on odd-numbered days received a letter signed by prominent law enforcement officials, indicating that law enforcement had a record of their gun purchase and that the gun buyer should properly record future transfers of the gun. The letters arrived during buyers’ 10-day waiting periods, before they could legally return to the store to collect their new gun.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The study period ended in June 2009 by which time 878 gun buyers in two target neighborhoods in Los Angeles received a letter. The control cases consisted of those purchasers who did not receive the letter.

In California, all firearm purchases must be conducted through a Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL)  and the state maintains a permanent record of those sales in the Automated Firearms System (AFS).  Records were extracted to assess the letter’s effect on legal secondary sales, reports of stolen guns, and recovery of the gun in a crime.

What were the key findings?

The letter appears to have no effect on the legal transfer rate or on the short-term rate of guns subsequently turning up in a crime. Rate at which guns became crime guns was 17 per 1,000 guns for letter receivers and 16 per 1,000 for control group.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

This intervention does not suggest that targeted gun law awareness campaigns are effective in modifying new gun buyers’ behaviors. Additional follow-up or modifications to this initiative might be needed to impact the rate at which guns enter the illegal gun market and ultimately are recovered in crimes.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?