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Illicit Firearm Use and the Role of Firearm Procurement and Transfer Networks in England and Wales

25 March 2013

Kate Gibson

Firearms criminality is different to other forms of criminality in a number of respects. Unlike many offences which can be analysed using Routine activity theory (Cohen and Felson 1979) whereby targets or victims can be protected by a ‘suitable guardian’, firearms offences frequently occur in public or even crowded areas, whereby a number of guardians exist, but remain powerless to stop the offence occurring. Furthermore, these offences are likely to be subject to more planning than many offences, with weapons scarce and therefore considerable effort made in many cases for weapon procurement. Nevertheless, research has shown firearms to be largely territorial (Gibson 2012, Braga and Kennedy, 2001), therefore it may be possible that they bear hidden resemblances to other offence categories such as residential burglary, and existing theories such as crime pattern theory (Brantingham and Brantingham).  The aim of this research is to use data from the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) combined with Police data to explore the movement and reuse of firearms, and how this may be linked to factors associated with the offender and the offence. Of particular interest is the presence of a firearms ‘middle market’, whereby individuals lease or loan firearms to offenders for use in criminal activity. This is particularly pertinent as a Government consultation has recently ended for the creation of a new offence of ‘possession of firearms with intent to supply’ (Home Office, 2012).