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ATF Publishes New Crime Gun Tracing Data for 2022

Law enforcement recovered nearly 400,000 crime guns in 2022, and the most trafficked guns came from Georgia

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the federal agency tasked with tracing crime guns — firearms used in a crime or identified by law enforcement as suspected of having been used in a crime — has released new tracing data for 2022.

According to the ATF, federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies recovered nearly 400,000 crime guns in 2022, and of that number, the ATF was able to successfully trace 392,164 (98%) back to the state where they were originally purchased. Because only licensed gun manufacturers and dealers are required to hold onto sales records in most states, the ATF must often start at the top of the supply chain, contacting gun makers or searching their records electronically, to trace the gun’s path down to the dealer level.

More key takeaways:

  • Between 2021 and 2022, the average “time to crime,” or the length of time from when the gun was initially purchased until it was recovered in a crime, increased from 6.24 years to 6.34 years. According to the ATF, crime guns recovered within three years of purchase may have been purchased with the intent to be used in a crime.
  • The proportion of guns recovered within three years of purchase in 2022 remained the same as in 2021, at 54%.
  • The proportion of guns recovered less than three months from the time of purchase dropped by 3% — from 40,475 guns (11%) in 2021 to 33,445 (8%) in 2022.
  • In 2022, states with some of the weakest gun laws were the largest sources of trafficked guns: Georgia (3,893), Arizona (3,431), Texas (2,880), Virginia (2,353), and Indiana (2,244). Trafficked guns are defined as firearms recovered in a state other than the one they were purchased in within three years of purchase.
  • The fewest trafficked guns came from Hawaii (4), Rhode Island (30), New Jersey (52), Alaska (70), and New York (72).
  • The most crime guns were recovered in Texas in 2022 (48,332), followed by California (33,153), Florida (30,092), North Carolina (20,498), and Georgia (19,844).
  • Texas was also the source of the greatest overall number of crime guns in 2022 (48,786), followed by Florida (29,115), Georgia (24,497), North Carolina (19,559), and California (19,261).

To learn more about state gun law rankings and how they relate to rates of gun violence, click here.

This 2022 data builds upon Volume II of the ATF’s ​​National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment (NFCTA), released earlier this year, which provides more insights into crime guns recovered and traced between 2017 and 2021, including the top manufacturers of crime pistols and other firearms as well as the steep rise of ghost guns.

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