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Tracking the sale and spread of illegal guns in the U.S.


Leveraging an innovative partnership with online payment company PayPal, in 2020 the Center on Crime and Community Resilience formed of a research collaborative designed to better understand illegal firearm trafficking and financing in the United States. Partners in this effort include the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis.

The research collaborative, with funding support from PayPal, is designed to generate actionable insights and guide efforts to monitor and respond to illegal firearm distribution, with the goal of combatting the illegal sale of firearms. The specific research proposal further seeks to understand what types of payment methods are used to finance these illegally-sourced firearms.

CCR Director Anthony Braga noted, “The United States has a significant problem with illegal acquisition of guns by individuals at elevated risk of becoming involved with gun violence. It is these guns that end up in the wrong hands that lead to serious violence. Through this cutting-edge research enterprise, we hope advance innovative collaborations between law enforcement and private industry to understand the evolving landscape and to generate actionable solutions.”

Over the course of the project, the research team will be examining the problem of illegal firearms from several angles, including studying the working of gun markets in US cities, investigating sales at gun shows, and collaborating with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF). “Preventing illegal firearms trafficking and violent gun crime has always been the ATF’s top priority,” said ATF Management. “It is clear from crime guns recovered on the streets every day that we need to better understand emerging firearms trafficking techniques that utilize the internet, and disrupt the illegal financing behind them. To mitigate this threat, ATF welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with our partners to identify how we can enhance the security of private businesses and promote public safety.”

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