A survey released this month by the U.S. Department of Justice found that the vast majority of gun-armed criminals serving time obtained their guns on the street or via other means.
The nationwide survey of 1.37 million inmates at the state and federal level, conducted in 2016, found that about a third said they possessed or carried a firearm while committing their crime. Of those 256,400 prisoners, some 43 percent said they obtained their guns from illicit “street” sources such as other criminals, often by bartering stolen goods or drugs. The next leading source, about 25 percent, came as gifts or purchases from friends or family members. About 6 percent were able to receive their guns through theft.
When it came to retail sources such as gun shows, flea markets, firearm stores, and pawn shops, only about 10 percent said they were able to obtain their weapons from such outlets through purchases or trades. Of those, the majority reported that a background check was conducted as part of the sale, although in many cases they did not purchase it under their own name.
In all, only about 1 percent of prisoners who used a firearm during their crime had obtained it through a retail sale.