For decades, researchers have probed the “cycle of abuse” that leads some people subjected to child abuse to later commit the same acts they once suffered. There has been far less study on — and public comprehension of — the relationship between people who have been harmed by guns, and those who use them in crimes, reports The Trace. In new research from the University of New Haven, using police incident reports between 2011-2016 from three Connecticut cities that account for 80 percent of the state’s homicides — New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport — professors Richard Spano and David Lambert created a database of individuals who had both been shot and arrested for a gun-related offense. “We were specifically interested in seeing what sequence these incidents occurred: Are they a victim first or are they an offender first?” Lambert says.
Of the 116 people they identified, more than half — 57 percent — had been shooting victims before they were arrested in a gun crime. Ninety nine percent of the subjects were male, 53 percent were younger than 21 years old, and 89 percent were black. “The best predictor of violent behavior is previous violent behavior, but the next best predictor is violent victimization,” says David Kennedy, the director of the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. and a pioneer in the violence prevention field. “Probably the most important insight in understanding gun violence in the last 25 years is that the violence happens hugely disproportionately among a really small network of folks who are at astronomical risk of victimization and offending,” he says. That “small network of folks” is the population examined by the New Haven researchers.