Weapons Prosecutions for October 2017
Table 1. Criminal Weapons Prosecutions
The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during October 2017 the government reported 583 new weapons prosecutions.
According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 16.4 percent 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 2017 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in
the previous year, the number of filings was up (15.9%).
Prosecutions over the past year are still much higher than they were five years ago.
Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are up 14 percent from levels reported in 2012.
The growth in
these cases is partly related to increases in the matters filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts. If magistrate cases
are excluded and only Federal District Court cases are counted, the overall increase in
weapons prosecutions is 9.4 percent instead of 14 percent.
The evidence suggests that part of the difference may be the result of improvements in the recording of the magistrate cases
by the Justice Department.
Figure 1. Monthly Trends in Weapons Prosecutions
The increase 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
The largest number of prosecutions of these matters in October 2017 was for "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major", accounting for 100 percent of prosecutions. See Figure 2.
The lead investigative agency for weapons prosecutions in October 2017
was ATF accounting for 66 percent of prosecutions referred.
Other agencies with substantial numbers of weapons referrals were:
FBI (13% ), Local (7%), DHS (3%).
See Figure 3.
Figure 2. Specific Types of Prosecutions
Figure 3. Prosecutions by Investigative Agency
Weapons Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts
Top Ranked Lead Charges
In October 2017, 109 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 "Firearms; Unlawful acts". This was the lead charge
for 78 percent of all magistrate filings in October.
Weapons Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts
In October 2017, 474 defendants in new cases
for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during October there
were an additional 112 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 2017.
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 "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 3 five years ago.
Ranked 3rd was "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.
Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest
increase in prosecutions — up 188.9 percent — compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 371
that involves " Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US ".
Compared to five years ago, the largest increase — 200 percent — was registered for
prosecutions under " Violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1959 ).
Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest
decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago — down 15.9 percent — was
" Firearms; Penalties " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 924 ).
Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in prosecutions — 52.7 percent — was
for filings where the lead charge was " Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 371 ).
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
In October 2017 the Justice Department said the government brought 217.6 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.
Table 3. Top 10 Districts (per ten million people)
The Western District of Tennessee (Memphis) — with 1912 prosecutions as compared with 217.6 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States — was the most active during October 2017.
The Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis) ranked 2nd.
The Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis) was ranked 3 a year ago.
District of Alaska is now ranking 3rd.
Recent entrants to the top 10 list were
Western District of Tennessee (Memphis), now ranked
, and Northern District of Indiana (South Bend)
In the same order, these districts ranked 16th and 21st one year ago and 14th and 36th five years ago.
The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth
in the rate of weapons prosecutions compared to one year ago — 110 percent — was
Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth — 187.9 percent — was
Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).
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 2017 are shown in Table 4.
A total of 5 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 13 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)
Judge Sheryl Halle Lipman in the Western District of Tennessee (Memphis) ranked 1st with 13 defendants in weapons cases.
Judges James C. Dever, III in the Eastern District of North Carolina (Raleigh) and Timothy Martin Cain in the District of South Carolina ranked 2nd with 7 defendants in weapons cases.
Report Generated: November 28, 2017