Broadening the Perspective on Gun Violence: An Examination of the Firearms Industry, 1990–2015


      Firearm violence injures or kills 100,000 Americans each year. This paper applies the Host–Agent–Vector–Environment model to this issue. Research on firearm violence tends to focus on two elements—the host (i.e., victims of firearm violence) and the environment (i.e., gun policies)—but little attention has been paid to the agent (the gun and ammunition) or the vector (firearm manufacturers, dealers, and the industry lobby).


      Using Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives data, trends in firearm manufacturing were investigated from 1990 to 2015. Outcome measures included: (1) trends in domestic gun manufacturing by weapon type; (2) trends in production by firearm caliber; and (3) 2015 market share by type of firearm and company. Data were collected and analyzed in 2016.


      Overall domestic firearms production decreased slightly from 1996 through 2004, and then steadily increased from 1.7% in 2005 to 13.8% in 2013, when >10 million firearms were produced for the domestic market. The increase in total firearm production was driven by the increased production of pistols and rifles. Within the pistol category, increased production was attributable to an increase in higher caliber weapons. Similar trends were observed in gun purchases and recovered and traced crime guns.


      Trends in firearm manufacturing reveal a shift toward more-lethal weapons, and this trend is also observed in gun purchases and crime gun traces. This may reflect a societal shift in cultural practices and norms related to guns and could inform strategies to reduce firearm violence.
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