(Reuters) - Most of the guns seized from gang members, felons and drug traffickers in eight U.S. cities over a decade were handguns, not the automatic assault rifles often depicted in Hollywood crime stories, according to a study published on Monday.
In the sample of 10,435 weapons seized by police in cities that included Los Angeles and Washington, 77 percent were handguns, and seven out of 10 of those were semi-automatic, according to the Geneva-based research project Small Arms Survey. The guns were seized from 2002 to 2012.
Less than 12 percent of the confiscated weapons were rifles, and the number of machine guns, submachine guns and machine pistols recovered by police were negligible, said the study “Small Arms Survey 2014: Women and Guns.”
The findings contrasted with how criminal firearm use is often depicted in popular culture, with TV shows, movies and songs depicting scenes of gang members and drug dealers spraying automatic assault rifles, leading to a warped public perception of gun violence, program director Keith Krause said.
“While the public continues to associate drug dealing with fully automatic weapons, this is not what police are seizing from criminals in the U.S. municipalities we studied,” Krause said.
While stranger-on-stranger violence is commonly featured by Hollywood, much of the firearms violence was directed at neighbors, family or other people the shooters knew, some of it motivated by fear or anger, the study said.
One “crime of passion” highlighted in the report described a woman’s scorned ex-boyfriend shooting up her new boyfriend’s car with a 9mm pistol.
Rifle use in the United States contrasted starkly with that in Mexico, where 72 percent of firearms seized from criminals were long guns and 90,000 people have been killed in drug related-killings since 2006.
The data was limited by the fact that the findings were based on weapons seized by police as opposed to a random sampling of illicit weapons owned or used by convicted criminals, making it unclear if the findings are more broadly representative of gun crime nationally, the study noted.
The other six cities in the survey were Houston; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Boise, Idaho; Columbus, Ohio; Denham Springs, Louisiana; and Satellite Beach, Florida.
Reporting by Curtis Skinner in New York; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Cooney