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Data: Fed Weapons Convictions Continue at Record-High Levels

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Exceeding even earlier predictions, federal convictions for weapons convictions for Fiscal 2023 ended with another record fiscal year.

Federal weapons convictions during FY 2023 were 21 percent higher than five years ago, and 41 percent higher than a decade ago. Convictions also showed an accelerating pace during the last half of the fiscal year, which ended September 30 and included 9,460 convictions for the year, with 1,082 convictions in September alone, according to an analysis by TRAC, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center based out of Syracuse University.  TRAC received case-by-case records from the Department of Justice after lengthy and successful litigation under the Freedom of Information Act.

From those records, TRAC determined that ATF referrals accounted for 61 percent of weapons convictions. ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is the lead federal investigative agency responsible for investigating weapons offenses.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations was responsible for another 16 percent of referrals that led to these convictions. In third place were referrals from state and local law enforcement agencies which accounted for another 9 percent. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Homeland Security were the lead investigative agencies which accounted for many of the remaining convictions for federal weapons violations.

Contrary to common assumptions, federal weapons prosecutions and convictions are not concentrated in districts with the largest urban centers. With the exception of the Eastern District of Missouri where St. Louis is located, which had both the highest number as well as the highest rate relative to its population size, other major metropolitan areas ranked towards the bottom. In contrast, relative to their population size, the rate of criminal convictions for weapons offenses in the rest of the top five after Missouri East, were in rank order: New Mexico, Arkansas East (Little Rock), the Southern District of Alabama (Mobile), and Tennessee West (Memphis). 


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