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The Dangerous Nature Of Firearm Offenders
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Published: 07/22/2019

Violence gun There is endless controversy regarding the prediction of future criminality, The Marshall Project. Age of the offender, age of criminal onset and criminal history seems to be the most powerful predictors. Maybe it’s time to add firearm-related crimes to that category.

Per the US Sentencing Commission (below), firearm offenders recidivate more, recidivate quickly, and do so much later in life.

Acquiring or using a firearm seems to be associated with a dedicated criminal lifestyle. There are endless stories of offenders finding it easy to get guns in their neighborhoods or through associates, but many choose not to carry. For example, most robberies do not involve firearms; thirty-one percent in a survey stated that they used a firearm during a robbery, Bureau of Justice Statistics, but other federal sources put the figure at 41 percent, National Institute of Justice.

Offenders understand that when they carry a firearm, they are telling all that crime and violence is not situational. They are declaring their willingness to create massive injury and possibly death.

There are basically two types of offenders, those who leave their home without an intent to commit a crime (but take advantage of opportunities as they appear), and those who leave their home fully intending to engage in violence or other forms of criminality. They may invoke self-protection as justification, but as every off duty cop knows, the world changes when you carry.

The Crime Report–St. Louis (direct quotes, rearranged for brevity)

Violent crime has become more deadly in St. Louis over the past decade, finds a new study. Criminologist Janet Lauritsen and doctoral candidate Theodore Lentz of the University of Missouri-St. Louis analyzed years of police data and found the number of homicides per robbery or assault has risen by more than 50 percent over the past eight years, from 23 homicides per 1,000 incidents to 36, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The prevalence of gun use in St. Louis is a likely factor. One possibility, Lauritsen said, is that shooters are firing more bullets, or bullets of a higher caliber. It’s also possible that shooters are more interested in killing their targets now. “Whatever is driving the use of guns is likely to have more lethal consequences,” she said.

The study found 94 percent of homicides in St. Louis involved a gun from 2015 to 2016, up from 78 percent in 2004. Similarly, more than 60 percent of assaults and robberies involved a gun from 2015 to 2016, compared with 43 percent in 2004, The Crime Report.

This data is much higher than other sources. About 29% of state and 36% of federal prisoners serving time for a violent offense said they possessed or carried a firearm during the offense.

Violent offenders were much more likely to have possessed a firearm during the offense than property (5% state, 3% federal) or drug (8% state, 12% federal) offenders, Criminals and Guns.


Like St. Louis, I suspect that the explosions of violence in Baltimore, Chicago and dozens of additional cities are predicated on a new willingness to acquire and use firearms.

“It used to be long ago, 30 years ago, no one carried a gun unless they were a shop owner or they had a reason,” said St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.

Those days seem to be over. Yes, the majority of offenders do not carry firearms because they understand that it crosses a line not just for the justice system, but also within the criminal community.

I’ve interviewed drug dealers who made it clear to all that they do not carry and if they get threatened by others with guns, they simply see it as a price of doing business. But they are not willing to die or be paralyzed or go to prison for decades for a drug transaction.

Offenders carrying a firearm (overwhelmingly handguns) is a deliberate decision and a declared dedication to criminality. Based on data, incapacitation through prison seems justified for anyone carrying a gun during an act of violence or other forms of criminality.

US Sentencing Commission (direct quotes rearranged for brevity)

The US Sentencing Commission examined the recidivism rates of firearms offenders compared to non-firearms offenders.

Firearms offenders generally recidivated at a higher rate, more quickly, and for more serious crimes than non-firearms offenders.

Criminal history is strongly associated with recidivism among both firearms offenders and non-firearms offenders. However, firearms offenders have higher recidivism rates than non-firearms offenders in every category.

Firearms offenders generally recidivated at a higher rate, recidivated more quickly following release into the community, and continued to recidivate later in life than non-firearms offenders. The key findings of the Commission’s study of recidivism among firearms offenders are:

The 3,446 firearms offenders analyzed in this report represent 13.8 percent of the 25,000 offenders in this study who were released in calendar year 2005.

Firearms offenders recidivated at a higher rate than non-firearms offenders. Over two-thirds (68.1%) of firearms offenders were rearrested for a new crime during the eight-year follow-up period compared to less than half of non-firearms offenders (46.3%).

Firearms offenders recidivated more quickly than non-firearms offenders. Of the firearms offenders who recidivated, the median time from release to the first recidivism event was 17 months. Comparatively, the median time from release to the first recidivism event for non-firearms offenders was 22 months.

A greater percentage of firearms offenders were rearrested for serious crimes than non-firearms offenders. Of the firearms offenders who recidivated, assault was the most serious new charge for 29.0 percent, followed by drug trafficking (13.5%) and public order crimes (12.6%).

Of the non-firearms offenders who recidivated, assault was the most common new charge for 21.9 percent, followed by public order crimes (19.4%) and drug trafficking (11.1%).

Firearms offenders have higher recidivism rates than non-firearms offenders in every Criminal History Category. The difference in recidivism rates between firearms and non-firearms offenders is most pronounced in Criminal History Category I, the lowest Criminal History Category, where firearms offenders recidivated at a rate approximately 12 percentage points higher than non-firearms offenders (45.0% compared to 33.2%).

Firearms offenders recidivated at a higher rate than non-firearms offenders in every age group at the time of release from custody. Firearms offenders recidivated at nearly twice the rate of nonfirearms offenders among those released after age 50 (39.3% compared to 20.6%).


US Sentencing Commission

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Reprinted with permission from https://www.crimeinamerica.net.

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com or for media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.

Leonard A. Sipes, Jr has thirty-five years of experience supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. He is the Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse and the Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. He has a Post Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and is the author of the book "Success With the Media". He can be reached via email at leonardsipes@gmail.com.


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