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California Releases Crime Gun Report

Mandated by law, the new report details where the state’s crime guns originated

Last week, the California Department of Justice released its first report mandated by Assembly Bill 1191, which was signed into law in October 2021 and required the state agency to produce annual reports about crime guns recovered and traced by law enforcement in California.

The new “Crime Guns in California” report is unique because it breaks down the state’s crime guns by recovery location, manufacturer, and even the dealers who sold them between 2010 and 2022. The report also highlights the rise in crime guns recovered without serial numbers, though it does not differentiate between weapons that were made with “ghost gun” kits and those that had their serial numbers removed.

Key takeaways:

  • The total number of crime guns recovered and traced annually in California has remained fairly constant since 2012, ranging from a minimum of 40,776 (2012) to a maximum of 46,080 (2022).
  • Three gun manufacturers — Smith & Wesson, Glock, and Ruger — produced roughly a third of all crime guns recovered in California between 2010 and 2022, with 65,151 (11.93%), 52,146 (9.55%) and 47,775 (8.75%) crime guns, respectively.
  • The report identifies 1,929 distinct gun dealers in California who sold or transferred at least one crime gun. Of that number, 82 dealers were associated with roughly half of all crime guns that were successfully traced (38,230 firearms). The highest number of crime guns associated with one gun dealer was 1,652.
  • Of the nearly 550,000 crime guns recovered in the state since 2010, only 76,135 (13.94%) could be traced back to a dealer sale logged in California. Notably, the California DOJ will not report a gun as a “complete match” if there are discrepancies between the gun’s description in the police report and the purchase report in California’s gun sales record-keeping system, known as the Automated Firearm System (AFS). These issues arise from two key sources:
    • Police data entry. California police enter the data into open-ended forms that allow incorrect information to be entered.
    • Post-purchase gun modifications. If a gun is modified after it’s purchased and no longer matches the description from the time of purchase, the California DOJ will not report it as matched.
  • The number of crime guns without serial numbers rose rapidly in 2020 and remains high. In 2019, California law enforcement recovered nearly 5,600 guns without serial numbers. That number rose to 13,524 in 2020 (+142%) and 23,559 in 2021 (+74%) while decreasing slightly to 21,933 in 2022 (-7%).

This first-of-its-kind report provides further evidence that the firearm supply chain needs stronger regulations, and the report may serve as a model for other states to improve data reporting to the public. The California report also highlights the need for better training among law enforcement personnel in cataloging and classifying recovered crime guns to ensure accurate data entry. Appendix A provides a full list of all the gun dealers associated with crime guns in California, and Appendix B lists all the manufacturers.

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