The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives released 2022 data for “crime guns” that were recovered and traced in the previous year, writes crime data analyst Jeff Asher. The ATF firearms data has information on each firearm that was recovered and traced to the source where it was initially purchased. You can explore all that data in some historical detail on Asher's firearms data dashboard, Not all firearms used in crime are traced and not all firearms traced are used in crime. Asher says the data are maddeningly incomplete in some areas. There were nearly 400,000 crime guns recovered and traced to a source in 2022, a 10 percent increase from 2021, a 47 percent increase from 2019, and a 172 percent increase from 2010, when the data collection begins.
There are many more guns in the U.S. now compared with a decade ago and they're showing up more often in crimes. The increase in the number of recovered and traced crime guns is not uniform throughout the U.S. California had only a slight increase from 2021 to 2022 and was the source state for roughly the same number of recovered firearms in 2022 as in the years just before COVID. Texas, by contrast was the source state for 9,000 more recovered firearms in 2022 than in 2021, accounting for about a quarter of the national increase and a huge leap from the state’s total before COVID. Another data point is “Time-to-crime”. This is a measure of the amount of time between when a recovered firearm was legally purchased and when it was recovered in a crime. The average time-to-crime for firearms has plunged in recent years while the share of recovered firearms that were recovered within 2 years of purchase increased by 15 percent between 2019 and 2021.
The average national time-to-crime rose slightly in 2022, from 6.24 years in 2021 to 6.34 years in 2022, but the average recovered firearm in 2022 was still far newer than it was in 2015 when the average was above 10 years. New guns make up a larger share of all guns recovered and traced by ATF while the average age of a traced gun has fallen 40 percent in 7 years.