Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court)
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court)
Table 1. Criminal Weapons Convictions
The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during December 2023 the government reported 791 new weapons convictions.
According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 20.2 percent over the previous month.
The comparisons of the number of defendants convicted for 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 2023 convictions of this type are compared with those of the same period in
the previous year, the number of convictions was up (9%).
Convictions over the past year are still much higher than they were five years ago.
Overall, the data show that convictions of this type are up 24.1 percent from levels reported in 2018.
Figure 1. Monthly Trends in Weapons Convictions
The increase from the levels five years ago in weapons convictions for these matters is shown more clearly in Figure 1.
The vertical bars in Figure 1
represent the number of weapons convictions 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
Other Operation Triggerlock Prosecutions
The largest number of convictions of these matters in December 2023 was for "Weapons-Operation Triggerlock Major", accounting for 100 percent of convictions. See Figure 2.
The lead investigative agency for weapons convictions in December 2023
was ATF accounting for 62 percent of convictions.
Other agencies with substantial numbers of weapons convictions were:
FBI (13% ), Local (9%), DHS (6%), DEA (4%).
See Figure 3.
Figure 2. Specific Types of Convictions
Figure 3. Convictions by Investigative Agency
Weapons Convictions in U.S. Magistrate Courts
Top Ranked Lead Charges
In December 2023, no defendants in weapons cases for these matters were convicted 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.
Weapons Convictions in U.S. District Courts
In December 2023, 790 defendants in new cases
for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during December there
were an additional 0 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 December.
Top Ranked Lead Charges
Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the convictions of weapons matters
filed in U.S. District Court during December 2023.
"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 "Other US Code Section" under Title U.S.C Section.
"Other US Code Section" under Title U.S.C Section was ranked 3 a year ago, while it was ranked 6 five years ago.
Ranked 3rd was "Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 841.
"Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 841 was ranked 4 a year ago, while it was ranked 4 five years ago.
Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest
increase in convictions — up 1500 percent — compared to one year ago was Title 8 U.S.C Section 1326
that involves " Reentry of deported alien ".
This was the same statute that had the largest increase — 166.7 % — when compared with five years ago.
Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest
decline in convictions compared to one year ago — down 6.5 percent — was
" Attempt and conspiracy " (Title 21 U.S.C Section 846 ).
Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in convictions — 50.5 percent — was
for convictions where the lead charge was " Firearms; Penalties " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 924 ).
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
In December 2023 the Justice Department's case-by-case records show that the government obtained 284.4 weapons convictions for every ten million people in the United States.
Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of weapons convictions in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.
The districts registering the
largest number of convictions per capita for these matters last month are shown in Table 3.
Districts must have at least 5 weapons convictions to receive a ranking.
Table 3. Top 10 Districts (per ten million people)
The Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis) — with 2842 convictions as compared with 284.4 convictions per ten million population in the United States — was the most active during December 2023.
The Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis) was ranked 1 a year ago, while it was ranked 1 for most frequent use five years ago.
The Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans) ranked 2nd.
District of Minnesota is now ranking 3rd.
Recent entrants to the top 10 list were
Northern District of Iowa (Cedar Rapids), now ranked
, and Middle District of Alabama (Montgomery)
In the same order, these districts ranked 15th and 43rd one year ago and 35th and 50th five years ago.
The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth
in the rate of weapons convictions compared to one year ago — 193.9 percent — was
Western District of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City).
This was the same district that had the largest increase — 470.6 percent — when compared with five years ago.
In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the
largest drop in the rate of weapons convictions — 14.1 percent — was
Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).
But over the past five years,
showed the largest drop — 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 resulting in convictions of this type during December 2023 are shown in Table 4.
A total of 11 out of the "top ten" judges were in districts which were in the top ten with the largest number of weapons convictions per capita, while the remaining 2 judges were from other districts. (Because of ties, there were a total of 13 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)
Judge Walter David Counts, III in the Western District of Texas (San Antonio) ranked 1st with 13 convicted in weapons convictions.
Judge Michael James Davis in the District of Minnesota ranked 2nd with 12 convicted in weapons convictions.
Judge Stephen Robert Clark, Sr. in the Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis) ranked 3rd with 11 convicted in weapons convictions.