Weapons Prosecutions for April 2013

Number Latest Month 697
Percent Change from previous month 3.6
Percent Change from 1 year ago -13.2
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -18.6
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -22.7
Table 1: Criminal Weapons Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during April 2013 the government reported 697 new weapons prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 3.6% over the previous month.

The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with weapons-related offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys. (See Table 1)

When monthly 2013 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of filings was down (-13.2 percent). Prosecutions over the past year are still much lower than they were five years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are down 18.6 percent from levels reported in 2008.

Plot of _FREQ_ by FYMONDT

Figure 1: Monthly trends in weapons prosecutions

The decrease from the levels five years ago in weapons prosecutions for these matters is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of weapons prosecutions of this type recorded on a month-to-month basis. Where a prosecution was initially filed in U.S. Magistrate Court and then transferred to the U.S. District Court, the magistrate filing date was used since this provides an earlier indicator of actual trends. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out. The one and five-year rates of change in Table 1 and in the sections that follow are all based upon this six-month moving average. To view trends year-by-year rather than month-by-month, see TRAC's annual report series for a broader picture.

Within the broad category of weapons, cases were classified by prosecutors into more specific types.

Case types within weapons are

  • Armed Career Criminal Act

  • Firearms/Triggerlock

  • Other Operation Triggerlock Prosecutions

The largest number of prosecutions of these matters in April 2013 was for "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major", accounting for 100 percent of prosecutions. See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for weapons prosecutions in April 2013 was ATF accounting for 72 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of weapons referrals were: FBI (12% ), Local (5%), DHS (4%). See Figure 3.

Pie chart of progcatlabel

Figure 2: Specific types of prosecutions
Pie chart of agenrevgrp

Figure 3: Prosecutions by investigative agency

Weapons Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts

Top Ranked Lead Charges

In April 2013, 104 defendants in weapons cases for these matters were filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts. These courts handle less serious misdemeanor cases, including what are called "petty offenses." In addition, complaints are sometimes filed in the magistrate courts before an indictment or information is entered. In these cases, the matter starts in the magistrate courts and later moves to the district court where subsequent proceedings take place.

In the magistrate courts in April the most frequently cited lead charge was Title 18 U.S.C Section 922 involving the "Firearms; Unlawful acts". This was the lead charge for 78.8 percent of all magistrate filings in April.

Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" (6.7%).

Weapons Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In April 2013, 593 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during April there were an additional 94 defendants whose cases moved from the magistrate courts to the U.S. district courts after an indictment or information was filed. The sections which follow cover both sets of cases and therefore cover all matters filed in district court during April.

Top Ranked Lead Charges

Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of weapons matters filed in U.S. District Court during April 2013.

Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts 565 1 1 1 More
21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy 35 2 5 6 More
18 USC 924 - Firearms; Penalties 24 3 2 2 More
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 19 4 6 3 More
18 USC 1951 - Hobbs Act 15 5 3 4 More
18 USC 554 - Smuggling goods from the United States 10 6 4 - More
26 USC 5861 - Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts 6 7 7 5 More
18 USC 371 - Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US 4 8 8 8 More
18 USC 111 - Assaulting, resisting, impeding certain officers 3 9 20 18 More
26 USC 5841 - Registration of firearms 2 10 16 15 More
Table 2: Top charges filed

  • "Firearms; Unlawful acts" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 922) was the most frequent recorded lead charge. "Firearms; Unlawful acts" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 922) was ranked 1 a year ago, while it was ranked 1 five years ago.

  • Ranked 2nd in frequency was the lead charge "Attempt and conspiracy" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 846. "Attempt and conspiracy" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 846 was ranked 5 a year ago, while it was ranked 6 five years ago.

  • Ranked 3rd was "Firearms; Penalties" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 924. "Firearms; Penalties" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 924 was ranked 2 a year ago, while it was ranked 2 five years ago.

Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest increase in prosecutions—up 233.3 percent—compared to one year ago was Title 26 U.S.C Section 5841 that involves " Registration of firearms ". This was the same statute that had the largest increase—100 %—when compared with five years ago.

Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago—down 60.6 percent—was Smuggling goods from the United States (Title 18 U.S.C Section 554 ). Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in prosecutions— 48.6 percent—was for filings where the lead charge was " Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A " (Title 21 U.S.C Section 841 ).

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In April 2013 the Justice Department said the government brought 268.5 weapons prosecutions for every ten million people in the United States.

Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of weapons prosecutions that are filed in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.

The districts registering the largest number of prosecutions per capita for these matters last month are shown in Table 3. Districts must have at least 5 weapons prosecutions to receive a ranking.


Judicial District Percapita Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
Ala, S 2,908 20 1 26 34 More
Mo, W 1,950 50 2 9 12 More
Tenn, W 1,467 19 3 16 3 More
Delaware 1,085 8 4 85 51 More
N Car, E 985 30 5 4 3 More
N Mexico 955 16 6 19 51 More
Kansas 894 21 7 3 29 More
N. Y., S 865 37 8 33 14 More
Ga, S 739 9 9 20 19 More
Texas, E 679 20 10 11 16 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per ten million people)

  • The Southern District of Alabama (Mobile)—with 2908 prosecutions as compared with 268.5 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States—was the most active during April 2013.

  • The Western District of Missouri (Kansas City) ranked 2nd. The Western District of Missouri (Kansas City) was ranked 9 a year ago.

  • Western District of Tennessee (Memphis) is now ranking 3rd.

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Eastern District of Texas (Tyler), now ranked 10th , and Western District of Tennessee (Memphis) at 3rd In the same order, these districts ranked 11th and 16th one year ago and 16th and 3rd five years ago.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of weapons prosecutions compared to one year ago— 111.4 percent—was Southern District of New York (Manhattan). Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth— 136 percent—was Kansas .

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of weapons prosecutions— 40.3 percent—was Eastern District of Texas (Tyler).  But over the past five years, Delaware showed the largest drop— 41.4 percent.

Top Ranked District Judges

At any one time, there are about 680 federal District Court judges working in the United States. The judges recorded with the largest number of new weapons crime cases of this type during April 2013 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
Scheindlin, Shira A. N. Y., S 28 1 - 590 More
Flanagan, Louise W. N Car, E 14 2 57 1 More
Sachs, Howard Frederic Mo, W 13 3 34 48 More
Whipple, Dean Mo, W 10 4 29 72 More
Kays, David Gregory Mo, W 10 4 57 590 More
Boyle, Terrence William N Car, E 10 4 6 13 More
Brack, Robert C. N Mexico 9 7 101 590 More
Cummings, Samuel Ray Texas, N 8 8 57 9 More
Steele, William H. Ala, S 7 9 82 24 More
DuBose, Kristi K. Ala, S 7 9 82 62 More
Smith, G. R. Ga, S 7 9 36 92 More
Vratil, Kathryn Hoefer Kansas 7 9 3 283 More
Rodriguez, Joseph H. N. J. 7 9 - 283 More
McCalla, Jon Phipps Tenn, W 7 9 49 6 More
Table 4: Top 10 judges

A total of 12 out of the "top ten" judges were in districts which were in the top ten with the largest number of weapons filings per capita, while the remaining 2 judges were from other districts. (Because of ties, there were a total of 14 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)

  • Judge Shira A. Scheindlin in the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) ranked 1st with 28 defendants in weapons cases.

  • Judge Louise W. Flanagan in the Eastern District of North Carolina (Raleigh) ranked 2nd with 14 defendants in weapons cases.

  • Judge Howard Frederic Sachs in the Western District of Missouri (Kansas City) ranked 3rd with 13 defendants in weapons cases.

Report Generated: June 10, 2013
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