Weapons Prosecutions for September 2013

Number Latest Month 532
Percent Change from previous month -2.9
Percent Change from 1 year ago -4.4
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -14.6
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -17.4
Table 1: Criminal Weapons Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during September 2013 the government reported 532 new weapons prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 2.9% 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 (-4.4 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 14.6 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 September 2013 was for "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major", accounting for 100 percent of prosecutions. See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for weapons prosecutions in September 2013 was ATF accounting for 64 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of weapons referrals were: FBI (13% ), Local (8%), DHS (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 September 2013, 77 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 September 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 76.6 percent of all magistrate filings in September.

Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy" (6.5%).

Weapons Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In September 2013, 455 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during September there were an additional 80 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 September.

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 September 2013.

Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
18 USC 922 - Firearms; Unlawful acts 444 1 1 1 More
18 USC 924 - Firearms; Penalties 24 2 2 2 More
18 USC 1951 - Hobbs Act 12 3 3 4 More
18 USC 2113 - Bank robbery and incidental crimes 12 3 12 8 More
26 USC 5861 - Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts 12 3 6 5 More
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 10 6 4 3 More
21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy 6 7 5 6 More
22 USC 2778 - Control of arms exports and imports 4 8 11 11 More
18 USC 554 - Smuggling goods from the United States 2 9 8 27 More
21 USC 963 - Attempt and conspiracy 2 9 - - 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 were "Hobbs Act" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1951, "Bank robbery and incidental crimes" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 2113 and "Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts" under Title 26 U.S.C Section 5861. "Hobbs Act" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1951 was ranked 3 a year ago, while it was ranked 4 five years ago."Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts" under Title 26 U.S.C Section 5861 was ranked 6 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 33.3 percent—compared to one year ago was Title 26 U.S.C Section 5861 that involves " Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts ". Compared to five years ago, the largest increase—2100 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 57.1 percent—was Control of arms exports and imports (Title 22 U.S.C Section 2778 ). Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in prosecutions— 50.7 percent—was for filings where the lead charge was " Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A " (Title 21 U.S.C Section 841 ).

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In September 2013 the Justice Department said the government brought 209.1 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  
Mo, W 1,248 32 1 8 11 More
Tenn, E 1,242 26 2 9 13 More
Ill, S 1,036 11 3 40 59 More
Mo, E 948 23 4 20 4 More
Ala, S 727 5 5 37 47 More
W Virg, S 650 5 6 71 59 More
Miss, N 649 6 7 52 72 More
Ala, N 648 15 8 33 18 More
Iowa, N 644 7 9 57 74 More
Okla, N 595 5 10 71 59 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per ten million people)

  • The Western District of Missouri (Kansas City)—with 1248 prosecutions as compared with 209.1 prosecutions per ten million population in the United States—was the most active during September 2013. The Western District of Missouri (Kansas City) was ranked 8 a year ago.

  • The Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville) ranked 2nd. The Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville) was ranked 9 a year ago.

  • Southern District of Illinois (East St. Louis) is now ranking 3rd.

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis), now ranked 4th , and Northern District of Alabama (Birmingham) at 8th In the same order, these districts ranked 20th and 33rd one year ago and 4th and 18th five years ago.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of weapons prosecutions compared to one year ago— 79.3 percent—was Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis). Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth— 68.8 percent—was Northern District of Iowa (Cedar Rapids).

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of weapons prosecutions— 30.4 percent—was Northern District of Mississippi (Oxford).  But over the past five years, Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis) showed the largest drop— 14.8 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 September 2013 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank  
Whipple, Dean Mo, W 10 1 More
Fenner, Gary A. Mo, W 8 2 More
Biery, Samuel Frederick, Jr. Texas, W 8 2 More
Reagan, Michael Joseph Ill, S 6 4 More
Reade, Linda R. Iowa, N 6 4 More
Robinson, Julie A. Kansas 6 4 More
Mattice, Harry Sandlin, Jr. Tenn, E 6 4 More
Trauger, Aleta Arthur Tenn, M 6 4 More
Schell, Richard A. Texas, E 6 4 More
Solis, Jorge Antonio Texas, N 6 4 More
Table 4: Top 10 judges

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 5 judges were from other districts.

  • Judge Dean Whipple in the Western District of Missouri (Kansas City) ranked 1st with 10 defendants in weapons cases.

  • Judges Gary A. Fenner in the Western District of Missouri (Kansas City) and Samuel Frederick Biery, Jr. in the Western District of Texas (San Antonio) ranked 2nd with 8 defendants in weapons cases.

Report Generated: November 25, 2013
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