Weapons Convictions for February 2013

Number Latest Month 527
Percent Change from previous month -23.2
Percent Change from 1 year ago 2.4
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -7.9
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -7.9
Table 1: Criminal Weapons Convictions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during February 2013 the government reported 527 new weapons convictions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 23.2% over the previous month.

The comparisons of the number of defendants convicted for 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 convictions of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of convictions was up (2.4 percent). Convictions over the past year are still much lower than they were five years ago. Overall, the data show that convictions of this type are down 7.9 percent from levels reported in 2008.

Plot of _FREQ_ by FYMONDT

Figure 1: Monthly trends in weapons convictions

The leveling out from the levels five years ago in weapons convictions for these matters is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of weapons convictions 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 convictions of these matters in February 2013 was for "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major", accounting for 100 percent of convictions. See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for weapons convictions in February 2013 was ATF accounting for 77 percent of convictions. Other agencies with substantial numbers of weapons convictions were: FBI (10% ), DHS (5%), Local (3%), DEA (2%). See Figure 3.

Pie chart of progcatlabel

Figure 2: Specific types of convictions
Pie chart of agenrevgrp

Figure 3: Convictions by investigative agency

Weapons Convictions in U.S. Magistrate Courts

Top Ranked Lead Charges

In February 2013, no 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.

Weapons Convictions in U.S. District Courts

In February 2013, 527 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during February there were an additional 0 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 February.

Top Ranked Lead Charges

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

Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts 412 1 1 1 More
18 USC 924 - Firearms; Penalties 31 2 2 2 More
18 USC 1951 - Hobbs Act 15 3 3 6 More
18 USC 554 - Smuggling goods from the United States 10 4 7 15 More
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 10 4 4 3 More
26 USC 5861 - Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts 9 6 6 4 More
18 USC 842 - Explosives - Importation, manufacture, etc 8 7 17 9 More
18 USC 371 - Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US 5 8 8 7 More
21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy 5 8 5 5 More
18 USC 2119 - Carjacking 4 10 11 10 More
Table 2: Top charges for convictions

  • "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 "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.

  • Ranked 3rd was "Hobbs Act" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1951. "Hobbs Act" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1951 was ranked 3 a year ago, while it was ranked 6 five years ago.

Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest increase in convictions—up 433.3 percent—compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 842 that involves " Explosives - Importation, manufacture, etc ". Compared to five years ago, the largest increase—1200 percent—was registered for convictions under " Smuggling goods from the United States " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 554 ).

Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in convictions compared to one year ago—down 27.4 percent—was Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A (Title 21 U.S.C Section 841 ). This was the same statute that had the largest decrease— 53.4 %—when compared with five years ago.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In February 2013 the Justice Department said the government obtained 206 weapons convictions for every ten million people in the United States.

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

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


Judicial District Percapita Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
N Dakota 1,299 7 1 78 74 More
N Car, M 1,079 25 2 19 40 More
Hawaii 1,019 11 3 93 69 More
Tenn, W 1,004 13 4 12 11 More
N Car, E 919 28 5 4 7 More
Okla, E 820 5 6 88 85 More
N Mexico 717 12 7 12 37 More
Ala, N 692 16 8 41 18 More
La, E 525 7 9 57 30 More
Tenn, M 484 9 10 18 54 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per ten million people)

  • The District of North Dakota—with 1299 convictions as compared with 206 convictions per ten million population in the United States—was the most active during February 2013.

  • The Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro) ranked 2nd.

  • District of Hawaii is now ranking 3rd.

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Western District of Tennessee (Memphis), now ranked 4th , and New Mexico at 7th In the same order, these districts ranked 12th and 12th one year ago and 11th and 37th five years ago.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of weapons convictions compared to one year ago— 1700 percent—was Hawaii . Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth— 126.3 percent—was Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro).

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of weapons convictions— 43.8 percent—was Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville).  But over the past five years, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans) showed the largest drop— 50 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 resulting in convictions of this type during February 2013 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank  
Beaty, James A., Jr. N Car, M 9 1 More
Eagles, Catherine Caldwell N Car, M 9 1 More
Ellison, Keith P. Texas, S 8 3 More
Boyle, Terrence William N Car, E 7 4 More
Dever, James C., III N Car, E 7 4 More
Flanagan, Louise W. N Car, E 7 4 More
Nixon, John Trice Tenn, M 6 7 More
Seabright, J[ohn] Michael Hawaii 5 8 More
Solis, Jorge Antonio Texas, N 5 8 More
Alvarez, Micaela Texas, S 5 8 More
Smith, Rebecca Beach Virg, E 5 8 More
Table 4: Top 10 judges

A total of 7 out of the "top ten" judges were in districts which were in the top ten with the largest number of weapons convictions per capita, while the remaining 4 judges were from other districts. (Because of ties, there were a total of 11 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)

  • Judges James A. Beaty, Jr. in the Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro) and Catherine Caldwell Eagles in the Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro) ranked 1st with 9 convicted in weapons convictions.

  • Judge Keith P. Ellison in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) ranked 3rd with 8 convicted in weapons convictions.

Report Generated: April 23, 2013
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