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Publication Firearm Use by Offenders

Caroline Wolf Harlow, Ph.D.

November 4, 2001    NCJ 189369

Describes firearm use of State and Federal prison inmates. Data are from the Surveys of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities. These surveys of nationally-representative samples of prison inmates in 1997 asked inmates about their use of firearms during their current offense. Topics of this BJS Special Report include types of firearms used, characteristics of inmates using firearms, why and where inmates used their firearms, and where they obtained their firearms.

Highlights:

  • During the offense that brought them to prison, 15% of State inmates and 13% of Federal inmates carried a handgun, and about 2%, a military-style semiautomatic gun.
  • On average, State inmates possessing a firearm received sentences of 18 years, while those without a weapon had an average sentence of 12 years.
  • Among prisoners carrying a firearm during their crime, 40% of State inmates and 56% of Federal inmates received a sentence enhancement because of the firearm.

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Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities (SISCF)

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