Baltimore's Underground Gun Market: Availability of and Access to Guns

Cassandra K. Crifasi, Shani A.L. Buggs, Marisa D. Booty, Daniel W. Webster, Susan G. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Underground gun markets can create opportunities for individuals who are prohibited from gun ownership to gain access to guns. Understanding how these individuals obtain guns, and their unsuccessful attempts to get guns, is key to developing interventions that effectively restrict the supply of guns in an underground market. We conducted surveys of criminal justice-involved men (n=195) in Baltimore City about their experiences in the underground gun market, of whom 30% reported having any experience in the underground gun market. More than half of these individuals were unsuccessful in their most recent attempt to obtain a firearm due to cost-or source-related barriers. Over 80% of individuals who did not already have access to a gun but wanted one (31/38) reported wanting to acquire one for safety or protection. Thirty-one percent (18/58) reported there were certain gun shop employees who sell guns off the record or make sales to obvious straw purchasers. Most respondents who had access to firearms had handguns (90%). Individuals reported selling or trading a gun (n=35) for money (69%), drugs (46%), or other guns (23%), or accepting guns as payment for drugs. Although an underground market can facilitate access to firearms, barriers exist that can prevent acquisition by high-risk individuals. Efforts should focus on strategies that increase accountability and restrict the supply of guns in an underground market or those that provide alternatives to gun carrying to feel safe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-83
Number of pages6
JournalViolence and Gender
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • acquisition
  • guns
  • policy
  • underground market

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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