Weapons Prosecutions for October 2012

Number Latest Month 622
Percent Change from previous month 9.1
Percent Change from 1 year ago -0.4
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -13.7
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -17.2
Table 1: Criminal Weapons Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during October 2012 the government reported 622 new weapons prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 9.1% 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 2012 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of filings was only slightly down (-0.4 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 13.7 percent from levels reported in 2007.

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 October 2012 was for "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major", accounting for 100 percent of prosecutions. See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for weapons prosecutions in October 2012 was ATF accounting for 74 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of weapons referrals were: FBI (11% ), DHS (7%), Local (5%). 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 October 2012, 115 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 October 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 76.5 percent of all magistrate filings in October.

Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "18 USC 1951 - Hobbs Act" (8.7%).

Weapons Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In October 2012, 507 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during October there were an additional 54 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 October.

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 October 2012.

Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts 464 1 1 1 More
18 USC 924 - Firearms; Penalties 31 2 2 2 More
26 USC 5861 - Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts 14 3 5 4 More
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 12 4 6 3 More
18 USC 371 - Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US 10 5 7 6 More
18 USC 1951 - Hobbs Act 10 5 4 5 More
18 USC 554 - Smuggling goods from the United States 4 7 9 15 More
22 USC 2778 - Control of arms exports and imports 4 7 11 9 More
18 USC 1959 - Violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity 2 9 28 - More
18 USC 2113 - Bank robbery and incidental crimes 2 9 10 8 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 4 five years ago.

Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest increase in prosecutions—up 150 percent—compared to one year ago was Title 22 U.S.C Section 2778 that involves " Control of arms exports and imports ". Compared to five years ago, the largest increase—760 percent—was registered for prosecutions 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 prosecutions compared to one year ago—down 35.3 percent—was Bank robbery and incidental crimes (Title 18 U.S.C Section 2113 ). This was the same statute that had the largest decrease— 45 %—when compared with five years ago.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In October 2012 the Justice Department said the government brought 219.3 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  
Tenn, W 1,390 18 1 20 10 More
La, M 1,372 9 2 80 84 More
Ala, S 1,018 7 3 29 34 More
La, E 974 13 4 69 36 More
Miss, N 866 8 5 66 71 More
Ala, M 759 7 6 63 35 More
Mo, W 741 19 7 8 2 More
Cal, S 633 17 8 42 80 More
Ga, M 606 10 9 72 45 More
N Car, E 591 18 10 1 8 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per ten million people)

  • The Western District of Tennessee (Memphis)—with 1390 prosecutions as compared with 219.3 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States—was the most active during October 2012.

  • The Middle District of Louisiana (Baton Rouge) ranked 2nd.

  • Southern District of Alabama (Mobile) is now ranking 3rd.

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Western District of Tennessee (Memphis), now ranked 1st , and Southern District of Alabama (Mobile) at 3rd In the same order, these districts ranked 20th and 29th one year ago and 10th and 34th five years ago.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of weapons prosecutions compared to one year ago— 206.3 percent—was Middle District of Georgia (Macon). Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth— 161.5 percent—was Southern District of California (San Diego).

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of weapons prosecutions— 23.4 percent—was Eastern District of North Carolina (Raleigh).  But over the past five years, Middle District of Alabama (Montgomery) showed the largest drop— 58.7 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 October 2012 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank  
Houston, John A. Cal, S 16 1 More
Feldman, Martin Leach-Cross La, E 12 2 More
Hinojosa, Ricardo H. Texas, S 11 3 More
Brady, James J. La, M 8 4 More
Boyle, Terrence William N Car, E 6 5 More
Biery, Samuel Frederick, Jr. Texas, W 6 5 More
Sparks, Sam Texas, W 6 5 More
Junell, Robert A. Texas, W 6 5 More
Chatigny, Robert N. Conn 5 9 More
Howard, Marcia Morales Fla, M 5 9 More
Sachs, Howard Frederic Mo, W 5 9 More
Howard, Malcolm Jones N Car, E 5 9 More
Carr, James G. Ohio, N 5 9 More
Mays, Samuel H., Jr. Tenn, W 5 9 More
Yeakel, Earl Leroy, III Texas, W 5 9 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 8 judges were from other districts. (Because of ties, there were a total of 15 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)

  • Judge John A. Houston in the Southern District of California (San Diego) ranked 1st with 16 defendants in weapons cases.

  • Judge Martin Leach-Cross Feldman in the Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans) ranked 2nd with 12 defendants in weapons cases.

  • Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) ranked 3rd with 11 defendants in weapons cases.

Report Generated: February 6, 2013
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