Graduation Date


Document Type

Senior Thesis


Bachelor of Arts

Primary Major

Political Science

Second Major

Global Public Health

Primary Minor


Program Director

Alison Howard, MA

Thesis Advisor

Alison Howard, MA


There are several laws in place regarding the legal purchase and possession of firearms in the United States (Giffords Law Center, 2020). There are also laws regarding the prohibited purchase and possession of firearms (Giffords Law Center, 2020). Yet, prohibited persons purchase and possess firearms regularly (Giffords Law Center, 2020). This happens because there are loopholes in the law (Brady United, 2020). For example, federal law requires background checks for gun purchases from licensed firearm dealers, but not at gun shows where sellers may not be licensed. This means that a felon (prohibited purchaser and possessor) buying a gun from a gun show that doesn’t require a background check is a loophole in the background check law. The felon gets the gun despite the prohibition because there is no background check required in this setting. (Giffords Law Center, 2020). The consequences to these loopholes are that prohibited persons have access to firearms. Many times, these guns are used in crimes (Giffords Law Center, 2020).

This study analyzed how prohibited persons obtain firearms and explored effective policies to prevent the prohibited purchase and possession of firearms in the United States, with the intention of gaining insight on how to reduce gun violence in America.

This thesis asked the following research question: what policy strategies are effective in preventing the prohibited purchase and possession of firearms? Using interviews with individuals involved with proposing and writing laws as well as those looking to build political will for action, this study examined both policy and advocacy strategies. This study found that there are a total of five effective policy strategies to prevent gun violence in America: giving states and local governments the authority to regulate this issue; using incrementalism and/or the foot-in-the-door-technique; getting youth involved; establishing a standard definition for reporting systems; and the need for additional research.