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Research-Informed Policies to Combat Illegal Firearms

Funded by PayPal Holdings, Inc.

This project considers the problem of illegal firearms markets from a number of different lenses of study with a particular focus on better understanding the financing of illegally sourced guns. This is a subject where researchers and policymakers understand very little, and one that could provide many effective strategies for blocking the sale of illegally sourced guns if better understood. Further, having the partnership of a major financial institution such as PayPal on this project provides the research team greater capability and background to approach the financial dimension of guns. Over the course of three years, this project seeks to fill important research gaps that are holding back progress toward curbing illegal gun markets. The project has three main components:

  1. A nationwide assessment of gun trafficking investigations to identify contemporary pathways of illegal gun diversion in the United States as well as through transnational gun trafficking enterprises
  2. An in-depth city-level analyses of underground gun markets to understand new ways guns are illegally acquired in specific urban environments such as through the illegal manufacture of “ghost” guns and via mobile payment services
  3. Careful study of payment methods used at gun shows and through internet sources including dark web transactions

The end goal is to develop accessible policy recommendations to curb illegal gun trafficking that could be implemented nationally and in different jurisdictions across the country (as well as be of use to financial institutions that are grappling with the misuse of their technologies to support harmful transactions).

Community Partners

  • U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
  • City of Oakland
  • City of Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles County

Student Involvement

Students are working with faculty and staff to collect quantitative and qualitative data. They will be help analyze ATF gun trafficking investigation and firearms trace data as well as conducting interviews with individual knowledgeable about illegal gun acquisitions in urban environment. Students will also be involved in the development of policy recommendations, writing of final reports and journal articles, and the public presentation of key research findings.

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