Weapons Prosecutions Continue to Climb in 2018
Table 1: Criminal Weapons Prosecutions
The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during the first ten months of FY 2018 the government reported 8,403 new weapons prosecutions. If this activity continues at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be 10,084 for this fiscal year. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this estimate is up 22.5% over the past fiscal year when the number of prosecutions totaled 8,235.
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).
Compared to five years ago when there were 7,136, the estimate of FY 2018 prosecutions of this type is up 41.3 percent. Prosecutions over the past year are higher than they were ten years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are up 18.9 percent from the level of 8,484 reported in 2008 and up 168 percent from the level of 3,758 reported in 1998.
The long term trend in weapons prosecutions for these matters going back to FY 1998 is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of weapons prosecutions of this type recorded each fiscal year. Projected figures for the current fiscal year are shown. Each presidential administration is distinguished by the color of the bars. To view trends month-by-month rather than year-by-year, see TRAC's monthly report series for the latest data.
Leading Investigative Agencies
The lead investigative agency for weapons prosecutions through July 2018 was "Justice - Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (formerly Treasury)" accounting for 63.8 percent of prosecutions referred.
As shown in Figure 2, additional agencies with substantial numbers of weapons referrals were: Justice - Federal Bureau of Investigation (12.9%), "Other - State/Local Authorities" (10.1%), "Justice - Drug Enforcement Administration" (3.4%), "Homeland Security - Immigration and Customs Enforcement" (2.8%).
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 the first ten months of FY 2018.
Table 2: Top charges filed
Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest projected decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago—down -12 percent—was "Firearms; Penalties " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 924 ). This was the same statute that had the largest projected decrease—-30%—when compared with five years ago.
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
During FY 2017 the Justice Department said the government obtained 25.5 weapons prosecutions for every one million people in the United States. If pace during the first ten months of FY 2018 continues at the same rate, weapons prosecutions for one million people in the United States this year will be 31.2 . Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of weapons prosecutions in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per one million people)
Recent entries to the top 10 list were Northern District of Iowa (Cedar Rapids), Alaska, Eastern District of Arkansas (Little Rock), Washington, D.C. (Washington) and Southern District of Mississippi (Jackson).
TRAC offers free monthly reports on program categories such as white collar crime, immigration, drugs, weapons and terrorism and on selected government agencies such as the IRS, FBI, ATF and DHS. For the latest information on prosecutions and convictions, go to http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/bulletins/. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports for a specific agency, judicial district, program category, lead charge or judge via the TRAC Data Interpreter.