Federal law prohibits firearm possession by felons and certain others. Little is known about criminal activity resulting in new ineligibility to possess firearms among persons who have previously purchased them.
Cohort study of handgun purchasers ages 21 to 49 in California in 1991, 2,761 with a non-prohibiting criminal history at the time of purchase and 4,495 with no prior criminal record, followed for up to 5 years. The primary outcome measures were the incidence and relative risk of conviction for a felony or violent misdemeanor resulting in ineligibility to possess firearms under (a) California law or (b) federal law. Secondary measures were the incidence and relative risk of conviction for murder, forcible rape, robbery, or aggravated assault; and of arrest for any crime.
A new conviction for a felony or violent misdemeanor leading to ineligibility to possess firearms under federal law was identified for 0.9% of subjects with no prior criminal history and 4.5% of those with 1 or more prior convictions (hazard ratio, 5.1; 95% confidence interval, 3.3–7.7). Risk was related inversely to age and directly to the extent of the prior criminal history; incidence rates varied by a factor of 200 or more among subgroups based on these characteristics.
Among legal purchasers of handguns, the incidence of new felonious and violent criminal activity resulting in ineligibility to possess firearms is low for those with no prior criminal history but is substantially higher for those with a prior criminal record and is affected by demographic characteristics.