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Survey Finds Illegal Firearm Purchases, Thefts Are Common

Respondents favor more jail time, higher fines for retailers, buyers making unlawful sales

FRIDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- Licensed firearms retailers report attempts to illegally purchase or steal firearms are common, according to research published online March 11 in Injury Prevention.

Garen J. Wintemute, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of California Davis in Sacramento, conducted a mail survey (June to August 2011) of a random sample of 1,601 licensed gun dealers and pawnbrokers (response rate was 36.9 percent) in 43 states who were believed to sell 50 or more firearms annually.

The researcher found that, in the preceding year, 67.3 percent of respondents experienced attempted surrogate (straw) purchases, and 42.4 percent experienced undocumented purchase attempts. Ten percent of respondents reported more than one occurrence per month for each event. Firearm theft was experienced by a quarter of respondents in the preceding five years. An estimated 3 percent (median) of retailers were involved in illegal sales; multivariate analysis showed that this estimate was related to respondents' age and sex, and to denied sales. Respondents recommended prolonged incarceration (median 10 years) and a substantial fine (median $50,000) for retailers and made similar recommendations for buyers in a hypothetical case involving 50 illegal sales.

"Attempts to acquire firearms illegally from licensed dealers and pawnbrokers are common," Wintemute writes.

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