Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative (YCGII) were less than 3 years old. Cook and Braga (2001) also report that only 18 percent of these new guns were recovered in the possession of the first retail purchaser, suggesting that many of these guns were quickly diverted to criminal hands. Recovered crime guns are relatively new when compared with guns in public circulation. Pierce et al. (2001) found that guns manufactured between 1996 and 1998 represented about 14 percent of guns in private hands, but they accounted for 34 percent of traced crime guns recovered in 1999.
Wright and Rossi (1994) found that criminals typically use guns from within-state sources, whereas the 1999 YCGII trace reports suggest that the percentage of crime guns imported from out of state is closely linked to the stringency of local firearm controls. While 62 percent of traced YCGII firearms were first purchased from licensed dealers in the state in which the guns were recovered (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, 2000c), this fraction was appreciably lower in northeastern cities with tight control—for example, Boston, New York, and Jersey City—where less than half of the traceable firearms were sold at retail within the state. A noteworthy number of firearms originated from southern states with less restrictive legislation, for example, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, 2000c).
Moreover, by examining the time-to-crime of out-of-state handguns in the trace data, Cook and Braga (2001) concluded that the process by which such handguns reach criminals in these tight-control cities is not one of gradual diffusion moving with interstate migrants (as suggested by Blackman, 1997-1998, and Kleck, 1999); rather, the handguns that make it into these cities are imported directly after the out-of-state retail sale. In contrast, Birmingham (AL), Gary (IN), Houston (TX), Miami (FL), New Orleans (LA), and San Antonio (TX), had at least 80 percent of their firearms first sold at retail in the state in which the city was located (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, 2000c). Kleck (1999) attempts to explain the interstate movement of crime guns by simply observing that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 9.4 percent of the United States population moved their residence across state lines between 1985 and 1990. These migration patterns, however, do not necessarily explain the big differences in import and export patterns across source and destination states as well as the overrepresentation of new guns that show up in tight-control cities from other loose-control states.
While analyses of BATF trace data can document characteristics of crime guns that suggest illegal diversions from legitimate firearms commerce, trace data analyses cannot describe the illegal pathways through