Legal Cynicism and Protective Gun Ownership Among Active Offenders in Chicago


Michael Sierra-Arévalo

Full citation: 
Michael Sierra-Arévalo (2014), Legal Cynicism and Protective Gun Ownership Among Active Offenders in Chicago, ISPS Working Paper, ISPS14-023.
Most American gun owners have their firearms for a simple reason: protection. However, these estimates are based on nationally representative samples that are likely to undersample residents of marginalized urban communities where rates of violent victimization, and presumably the need for personal protection, are much higher than the country as a whole. Yet, we know very little about the motivations for gun acquisition within high-crime neighborhoods, especially among “hidden” sub-populations within these communities such as active criminal offenders. Drawing on past work linking neighborhood violence to legal cynicism, and using data gathered by the Chicago Gun Project (CGP), I employ measures of police legitimacy to explore the effect of distrust of legal agents on protective gun ownership among active offenders in Chicago. These data confirm that lower levels of police legitimacy are significantly related to a higher probability of acquiring a firearm for protection. I also consider the ways that gang membership, legal changes in Chicago, and gun behaviors are related to protective gun ownership.
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IL - Chicago
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