The Justice Department has released its most expansive report on gun crimes in two decades.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in 2021 directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to begin a comprehensive study of firearm-related crimes. The first part of this massive undertaking was released in May of 2022. Now the second part is available.
“This collection of data will equip our prosecutors and agents – and our law enforcement partners across the country – with unprecedented insights into firearm trafficking networks and dangerous emerging firearm technologies," Garland said in a statement.
One finding from the treasure trove of data is that legally purchased firearms are being used for crimes more quickly. This is referred to as “time-to-crime."
In 2021, 54 percent of guns recovered from crime scenes were purchased legally within the past three years — a double-digit increase from the same statistic in 2019. The Justice Department said shorter time-to-crime numbers could indicate more illegal gun trafficking through straw purchases, in which guns are legally purchased and then illegally resold and distributed.
It added that between 2017 and 2021, nearly 25 percent of traced guns had a time-to-crime rate of less than one year, while 46 percent had a rate of three years or less.
Generally, the report found, these guns are found in the same states where they were purchased.
“Information is power,” said ATF Director Steven Dettelbach. “This report provides more information on America’s crime guns than has ever been compiled in a single publication.