Weapons Prosecutions for January 2013

Number Latest Month 493
Percent Change from previous month -3.9
Percent Change from 1 year ago -11.5
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -20.2
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -24.4
Table 1: Criminal Weapons Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during January 2013 the government reported 493 new weapons prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 3.9% 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 (-11.5 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 20.2 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 January 2013 was for "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major", accounting for 100 percent of prosecutions. See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for weapons prosecutions in January 2013 was ATF accounting for 71 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of weapons referrals were: FBI (10% ), Local (6%), DHS (4%), DEA (3%). 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 January 2013, 81 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 January 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 80.2 percent of all magistrate filings in January.

Weapons Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In January 2013, 412 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during January there were an additional 68 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 January.

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 January 2013.

Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts 378 1 1 1 More
18 USC 924 - Firearms; Penalties 39 2 2 2 More
21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy 15 3 8 6 More
18 USC 1951 - Hobbs Act 10 4 3 5 More
26 USC 5861 - Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts 10 4 4 4 More
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 8 6 7 3 More
18 USC 842 - Explosives - Importation, manufacture, etc 3 7 15 9 More
18 USC 2117 - Breaking or entering carrier facilities 3 7 - - More
18 USC 2118 - Robberies/burglaries w/controlled substances 3 7 25 13 More
18 USC 1201 - Kidnaping 2 10 25 21 More
22 USC 2778 - Control of arms exports and imports 2 10 12 10 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 "Attempt and conspiracy" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 846. "Attempt and conspiracy" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 846 was ranked 8 a year ago, while it was ranked 6 five years ago.

Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest increase in prosecutions—up 200 percent—compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 2118 that involves " Robberies/burglaries w/controlled substances ". Compared to five years ago, the largest increase—8.1 percent—was registered for prosecutions under " Hobbs Act " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1951 ).

Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago—down 25 percent—was Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts (Title 26 U.S.C Section 5861 ). Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in prosecutions— 72.7 percent—was for filings where the lead charge was " Robberies/burglaries w/controlled substances " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 2118 ).

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In January 2013 the Justice Department said the government brought 187.6 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  
Kansas 1,022 24 1 1 32 More
Tenn, E 1,003 21 2 13 23 More
D. C. 1,001 5 3 90 90 More
Miss, N 866 8 4 57 76 More
Tenn, W 772 10 5 21 8 More
Ga, S 739 9 6 67 16 More
Ala, S 727 5 7 16 43 More
Ill, S 565 6 8 34 66 More
N Car, E 525 16 9 4 6 More
N. Y., S 514 22 10 18 19 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per ten million people)

  • The District of Kansas—with 1022 prosecutions as compared with 187.6 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States—was the most active during January 2013. The District of Kansas was ranked 1 a year ago.

  • The Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville) ranked 2nd.

  • District of Washington, D.C. (Washington) is now ranking 3rd.

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville), now ranked 2nd , and Southern District of Alabama (Mobile) at 7th In the same order, these districts ranked 13th and 16th one year ago and 23rd and 43rd five years ago.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of weapons prosecutions compared to one year ago— 117.6 percent—was Southern District of Georgia (Savannah). Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth— 147.8 percent—was Kansas .

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of weapons prosecutions— 39.5 percent—was Southern District of Illinois (East St. Louis).  But over the past five years, Southern District of Georgia (Savannah) showed the largest drop— 54.9 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 January 2013 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank  
Keenan, John Fontaine N. Y., S 9 1 More
Garcia Marmolejo, Marina Texas, S 9 1 More
Mattice, Harry Sandlin, Jr. Tenn, E 8 3 More
Smith, G. R. Ga, S 7 4 More
Robinson, Julie A. Kansas 7 4 More
Engelmayer, Paul Adam N. Y., S 6 6 More
Melgren, Eric F. Kansas 5 7 More
Harwell, Robert Bryan S Car 5 7 More
DuBose, Kristi K. Ala, S 4 9 More
Alsup, William Haskell Cal, N 4 9 More
Presnell, Gregory A. Fla, M 4 9 More
Springmann, Theresa Lazar Ind, N 4 9 More
Belot, Monti L. Kansas 4 9 More
Murguia, Carlos Kansas 4 9 More
Jones, Robert Clive Nevada 4 9 More
Polster, Dan A. Ohio, N 4 9 More
Friot, Stephen P. Okla, W 4 9 More
Varlan, Thomas A. Tenn, E 4 9 More
Lindsay, Sam A. Texas, N 4 9 More
Crane, Randy Texas, S 4 9 More
Table 4: Top 10 judges

A total of 10 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 10 judges were from other districts. (Because of ties, there were a total of 20 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)

  • Judges John Fontaine Keenan in the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) and Marina Garcia Marmolejo in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) ranked 1st with 9 defendants in weapons cases.

  • Judge Harry Sandlin Mattice, Jr. in the Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville) ranked 3rd with 8 defendants in weapons cases.

Report Generated: March 5, 2013
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