Weapons Prosecutions for May 2013

Number Latest Month 627
Percent Change from previous month -11.7
Percent Change from 1 year ago -9.2
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -15.3
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -18.6
Table 1: Criminal Weapons Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during May 2013 the government reported 627 new weapons prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 11.7% 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 (-9.2 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 15.3 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 May 2013 was for "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major", accounting for 100 percent of prosecutions. See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for weapons prosecutions in May 2013 was ATF accounting for 74 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of weapons referrals were: FBI (8% ), DHS (6%), Local (5%), 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 May 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 May 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 75.3 percent of all magistrate filings in May.

Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "18 USC 924 - Firearms; Penalties" (13.6%), "21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" (7.4%).

Weapons Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In May 2013, 546 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during May there were an additional 85 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 May.

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 May 2013.

Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts 538 1 1 1 More
18 USC 924 - Firearms; Penalties 23 2 2 2 More
26 USC 5861 - Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts 18 3 5 5 More
18 USC 1951 - Hobbs Act 16 4 3 4 More
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 15 5 5 3 More
18 USC 1958 - Interstate commerce facilities - murder for hire 4 6 - - More
18 USC 371 - Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US 3 7 8 8 More
18 USC 554 - Smuggling goods from the United States 2 8 4 - More
21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy 2 8 7 6 More
18 USC 831 - Prohibited transactions involving nuclear material 1 10 - - More
18 USC 842 - Explosives - Importation, manufacture, etc 1 10 10 11 More
18 USC 844 - Explosives - Importation and storage of explosives 1 10 12 20 More
18 USC 1029 - Fraud and related activity - access devices 1 10 - - More
18 USC 1519 - Destruct, alter, falsify records in fed. investigations and bankruptcy 1 10 - - More
18 USC 1546 - Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents 1 10 - - More
18 USC 1703 - Delay or destruction of mail or newspapers 1 10 - - More
18 USC 2119 - Carjacking 1 10 9 9 More
22 USC 2778 - Control of arms exports and imports 1 10 10 13 More
26 USC 5845 - Tax on Making Firearms 1 10 27 14 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 200 percent—compared to one year ago was Title 26 U.S.C Section 5845 that involves " Tax on Making Firearms ". Compared to five years ago, the largest increase—100 percent—was registered for prosecutions under " Explosives - Importation and storage of explosives " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 844 ).

Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago—down 75 percent—was Carjacking (Title 18 U.S.C Section 2119 ). This was the same statute that had the largest decrease— 80 %—when compared with five years ago.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In May 2013 the Justice Department said the government brought 246.6 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  
Wyoming 2,205 10 1 69 57 More
N Car, M 1,553 36 2 16 12 More
Tenn, W 1,313 17 3 11 3 More
Mo, W 1,248 32 4 6 11 More
Kansas 979 23 5 3 24 More
Mo, E 948 23 6 20 8 More
N Car, W 611 15 7 22 33 More
N Car, E 525 16 8 4 7 More
N. Y., S 514 22 9 28 16 More
Nevada 499 11 10 24 57 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per ten million people)

  • The District of Wyoming—with 2205 prosecutions as compared with 246.6 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States—was the most active during May 2013.

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

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

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Western District of Tennessee (Memphis), now ranked 3rd , and Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro) at 2nd In the same order, these districts ranked 11th and 16th one year ago and 3rd and 12th five years ago.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of weapons prosecutions compared to one year ago— 122.9 percent—was Southern District of New York (Manhattan). Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth— 90 percent—was Kansas .

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of weapons prosecutions— 24.5 percent—was Nevada .  But over the past five years, Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis) showed the largest drop— 33.6 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 May 2013 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank  
Robinson, Julie A. Kansas 15 1 More
Whipple, Dean Mo, W 9 2 More
Breen, J. Daniel Tenn, W 9 2 More
Lynn, Barbara M. Texas, N 9 2 More
Junell, Robert A. Texas, W 8 5 More
Autrey, Henry Edward Mo, E 6 6 More
Kays, David Gregory Mo, W 6 6 More
Dever, James C., III N Car, E 6 6 More
Pauley, William H., III N. Y., S 6 6 More
Garcia, Orlando Luis Texas, W 6 6 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 filings per capita, while the remaining 3 judges were from other districts.

  • Judge Julie A. Robinson in the District of Kansas ranked 1st with 15 defendants in weapons cases.

  • Judges Dean Whipple in the Western District of Missouri (Kansas City), J. Daniel Breen in the Western District of Tennessee (Memphis) and Barbara M. Lynn in the Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth) ranked 2nd with 9 defendants in weapons cases.

Report Generated: July 22, 2013
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Copyright 2013, TRAC Reports, Inc.

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