Research Shows Women are Primary Perpetrators of Illegal Gun Purchases in the United States

Recent studies have found that women are more likely than men to be perpetrators of illegal gun sales, more commonly referred to as straw purchases. A study by the Journal of Urban Health found that women are disproportionately involved in the sale of guns that end up in the hands of criminals. Another study, completed by the Criminal Justice Policy Review, found that minority women purchase the majority of guns that were bought and quickly utilized to carry out a crime.


A new organization, known as Operation L.I.P.S.T.I.C.K. (Ladies Involved In Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killing), is working with women to learn to say “no” to men who want to use them for straw purchases.

“LIPSTICK is women talking to women about the risks of straw purchasing—in beauty shops, churches, schools, domestic violence and homeless shelters in communities devastated by gun violence,” the organization says in a pamphlet.

According to Operation L.I.P.S.T.I.C.K.’s executive director, Nancy Robinson, while men are the ones pulling the trigger, women are the ones supplying the guns.

“We tried to expand the thinking beyond just locking [the shooter] up, to ‘How did he get that gun in the first place?'” she explained. “It turns out that one of the answers, shockingly, is women.”

From Robinson’s experience with Operation L.I.P.S.T.I.C.K., many women don’t think about the overall impact that their illegal action will have in their communities.

“They think it’s a victimless crime. They’re just helping out a boyfriend, they’re just helping out a brother or a friend,” Robinson explained.  “They’re really not connecting the dots and understanding that it’s these guns that are turned on themselves, their children, their neighbor’s children.”

Operation LIPSTICK
Operation LIPSTICK

The organization has a plan to reduce straw purchases. Their areas of impact include:

  • Addressing  a common source of illegally trafficked guns used in urban shooting
  • Changing community norms
  • Mobilizing populations in high-crime neighborhoods
  • Providing new research to inform public policy

According to the organization, these areas of impact do not require legislative action and would not threaten our Second Amendment rights.

Since the program’s inception in Boston several years ago,  the number of women involved in the illegal purchasing of guns has dropped by a third, and the Boston District Attorney credited the drop to Operation L.I.P.S.T.I.C.K.

David M. Kennedy of the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice explains why Operation L.I.P.S.T.I.C.K. has achieved such success:

It’s a homegrown community response that focuses on and takes advantage of the really distinctive role that women can play around this issue. It makes all kinds of sense, and it absolutely deserves attention.

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