Policing Gun Violence: What Works?

Despite numerous efforts over the past several decades, gun-related violence remains a troublesome, persistent public safety issue. In 2010 alone, the United States experienced over 31,000 firearms deaths, including suicides (62 percent), homicides (36 percent), and unintentional firearm deaths (2 percent).1 While the rate of homicides in the United States generally declined between 2002 and 2011, the percentage of homicide victims killed by firearms remained stable at approximately 67 percent.2 Furthermore, recent data suggest a slight increase in homicides and non-lethal shootings in some urban jurisdictions.3 Therefore, it is important to forge partnerships between police, government, professional, and academic organizations to better identify and support the programs that successfully curb illegal firearm possession, sales, and trafficking.

The practices described vary in their immediate relevance to everyday police activity, but they have all been discussed as potential solutions to the problem of firearms violence, with varied levels of empirical support.The present review provides a thorough inventory of policies and practices that target gun violence and illegal firearm possession in the United States, with a particular focus on actions police agencies can take.4 Given the limited knowledge about gun markets in the United States, these programs disproportionately focus on violence and possession, instead of trafficking and illicit sales.5