The study focused on tracing the origins of the 893 guns recovered from crime scenes in 2008. “All guns start out as legal guns,” lead researcher Anthony Fabio told the Washington Post. “As a public-health person, I’d like to be able to figure out that path.”
Once all guns were traced, researchers found that in roughly 80 percent of cases, the perpetrator wasn’t the lawful owner of the crime gun, but was in illegal possession of someone else’s firearm. About a third of those guns had been stolen—but researchers suspect that a large portion of the remainder came from illegal straw purchases.