Weapons Prosecutions for February 2014

Number Latest Month 522
Percent Change from previous month 4.2
Percent Change from 1 year ago -6.9
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -23.3
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -25.9
Table 1: Criminal Weapons Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during February 2014 the government reported 522 new weapons prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 4.2% 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 2014 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of filings was down (-6.9 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 23.3 percent from levels reported in 2009.

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 February 2014 was for "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major", accounting for 100 percent of prosecutions. See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for weapons prosecutions in February 2014 was ATF accounting for 70 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of weapons referrals were: DHS (9% ), Local (9%), FBI (7%), DEA (2%). 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 February 2014, 65 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 February 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 70.8 percent of all magistrate filings in February.

Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "18 USC 924 - Firearms; Penalties" (7.7%), "22 USC 2778 - Control of arms exports and imports" (7.7%).

Weapons Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In February 2014, 457 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during February there were an additional 76 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 prosecutions of weapons matters filed in U.S. District Court during February 2014.

Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts 460 1 1 1 More
18 USC 924 - Firearms; Penalties 39 2 2 2 More
26 USC 5861 - Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts 10 3 5 5 More
18 USC 842 - Explosives - Importation, manufacture, etc 8 4 15 13 More
18 USC 1951 - Hobbs Act 7 5 3 3 More
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 4 6 4 4 More
18 USC 2119 - Carjacking 3 7 12 9 More
18 USC 2111 - Robbery/burglary - Special jurisdiction 1 8 - 16 More
22 USC 2778 - Control of arms exports and imports 1 8 9 11 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 "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 "Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts" under Title 26 U.S.C Section 5861. "Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts" under Title 26 U.S.C Section 5861 was ranked 5 a year ago, while it was ranked 5 five years ago.

Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest increase in prosecutions—up 171.4 percent—compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 2119 that involves " Carjacking ". This was the same statute that had the largest increase—137.5 %—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 28.6 percent—was Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A (Title 21 U.S.C Section 841 ). Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in prosecutions— 50 percent—was for filings where the lead charge was " Robbery/burglary - Special jurisdiction " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 2111 ).

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In February 2014 the Justice Department said the government brought 203.8 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 1,582 11 1 33 36 More
Tenn, W 1,441 19 2 10 6 More
W Virg, S 904 7 3 52 74 More
Tenn, E 893 19 4 13 14 More
Kansas 832 20 5 3 31 More
Mo, E 659 16 6 16 2 More
N Car, M 505 12 7 6 10 More
Ga, S 468 6 8 35 16 More
Ill, S 468 5 8 38 70 More
Mo, W 425 11 10 7 15 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per ten million people)

  • The Southern District of Alabama (Mobile)—with 1582 prosecutions as compared with 203.8 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States—was the most active during February 2014.

  • The Western District of Tennessee (Memphis) ranked 2nd. The Western District of Tennessee (Memphis) was ranked 10 a year ago, while it was ranked 6 for most frequent use five years ago.

  • Southern District of West Virginia (Charleston) is now ranking 3rd.

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville), now ranked 4th , and Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis) at 6th In the same order, these districts ranked 13th and 16th one year ago and 14th and 2nd five years ago.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of weapons prosecutions compared to one year ago— 32.3 percent—was Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville). Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth— 114.9 percent—was Kansas .

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of weapons prosecutions— 47.2 percent—was Southern District of Georgia (Savannah).  This was the same district that had the largest increase— 70.8 percent—when compared with five years ago.

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 February 2014 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank  
Cerezo, Carmen Consuelo Puer Rico 11 1 More
Harmon, Melinda Texas, S 11 1 More
Dominguez, Daniel R. Puer Rico 10 3 More
Delgado-Colon, Aida M. Puer Rico 9 4 More
King, James Lawrence Fla, S 8 5 More
Fowlkes, John Thomas, Jr. Tenn, W 8 5 More
Vratil, Kathryn Hoefer Kansas 7 7 More
Garcia-Gregory, Jay A. Puer Rico 6 8 More
Besosa, Francisco Augusto Puer Rico 6 8 More
Junell, Robert A. Texas, W 6 8 More
Table 4: Top 10 judges

A total of 2 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 8 judges were from other districts.

  • Judges Carmen Consuelo Cerezo in the District of Puerto Rico and Melinda Harmon in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) ranked 1st with 11 defendants in weapons cases.

  • Judge Daniel R. Dominguez in the District of Puerto Rico ranked 3rd with 10 defendants in weapons cases.

Report Generated: April 24, 2014
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