European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 379–397 | Cite as

The Mobility of Stolen Guns in Quebec

  • Carlo Morselli
  • Dominik Blais


Research on crime guns has traditionally focused on the time-to-crime measure. This study shifts the focus to guns that entered the illegal firearm market through thefts. This subset of guns allows us to examine the same process and objective underlying the time-to-crime measure—that being the recovery process. Two new measures are proposed. The first, time-to-find, assesses the time span between a gun’s theft and seizure by police. The second, distance-to-recovery, introduces a spatial dimension to the crime gun repertoire by measuring the distance a firearm travels between its points of theft and seizure. Using a mix of national (Canada) and provincial (Quebec) data on crime guns, this study’s findings show that these two new measures are tapping into a unique phenomenon: whereas time-to-crime accounts for a gun’s complete lifecycle, time-to-find and distance-to-recovery reflect a gun’s criminal lifecycle. At the multivariate level, the most influential factor explaining both time-to-find and distance-to-recovery is the registration status of the gun. Non-registered crime guns took longer to find and traveled lengthier distances between the moments and points of theft and seizure. Our explanation for this is that non-registered guns may be stolen from sources that are more problematic to begin with and, thus, result in the gun’s transition toward a segment of the illegal market that is also more problematic and in demand than the pool of firearms represented by registered guns. This would embed the firearm more deeply into the illegal market, making it more difficult to retrieve and more likely to be dispersed across a wider geographical plane than guns which are registered to begin with.


Firearms Illegal market Tracing Time-to-crime Spatial mobility 



The authors would like to thank Maïa Leduc (Module d’enquête sur le trafic d’armes à feu, munitions et explosives, the Sureté du Québec) and the RCMP’s Firearms Operations and Enforcement Support Unit (FOES) for their help accessing and exploring, respectively, the provincial and national data sets that were used to complete this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.École de criminologie/Centre international de criminologie comparéeUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada

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