ATF Releases Trace Data for 2012

You can find the story here. ATF site here. They are including two pieces of data I don’t recall from previous years, namely the age of the offender, and the a breakdown of the reason for the trace request. Looking quickly at Pennsylvania’s data, there’s a few surprising things. One is that the age data for Pennsylvania skews much older than I would expect. Generally speaking, you can repeat the old cliche that guns don’t kill people, people do, but really, young men kill people. It’s very interesting that the people Pennsylvania authorities are pulling guns off of skew older. I’m also wondering why so many traces from Pennsylvania don’t list a reason, which is not the case in New Jersey or New York. Interestingly, traced guns in New Jersey have “Found Firearm” as the second reason for traces. New York also trends far older than I would expect as well. When most of the possessors are outside the general age range for criminality, in makes me seriously question how representative traced guns are of crime guns in general.

Lots of interesting data to go through if anyone wants to have a stab at it.

11 thoughts on “ATF Releases Trace Data for 2012”

  1. One important point to note on the age reporting is that it represents only 48% of recoveries. The footnotes add that they only reported that data in cases where an actual birthdate was documented. It’s only likely to be documented if the person with the recovered gun is carrying identification on them. Who is more likely to carry id? Some guy over 50 or a 16-year-old thug in Philly? If they don’t have a birthdate documented immediately, ATF probably never follows up to find out more.

  2. For the New York data, remember that it includes people who aren’t necessarily criminals in that they have intent to commit something like robbery or assault or something like that, but it also includes people guilty of nothing more than something like possessing a handgun without getting permission from the government, or possession of any unregistered gun in NYC. That’s probably why it would skew older in NY: The largest single age group in the NY data is the “over 50” group.

    My neighbor across the street was in that situation for a short time after her husband died: She was technically in illegal possession of his legally registered handguns until a relative with a pistol permit took them. I’m not sure if she knew they were illegal for her to possess or not.

  3. Interesting “Source” data for California. We’re constantly being told that the guns in Oakland and Los Angeles are flowing from States with “lax” gun laws like Arizona and Nevada. But the’re not. 13K from California. The rest of the map accounts for about 12% of the total, 3,000.

  4. Remind me again what Tiahrt does? ATF releases a report, but database access itself is still restricted. Is that about right? And why doesn’t this report satisfy the vultures, and their claimed need to see this data to conduct “research”? Any reason beyond pretending like the big bad gun industry makes things so unfair? Much like they do when they whine about not having industry sales data, forgetting to look at the ATF reports of the exact number of guns (with caliber) that each manufacturer produces year by year. It’s all about the David vs. Goliath complex.

    1. Previously they were going in and requesting all the raw trace data in order to help form the basis of lawsuits against FFLs. Right now they just get these reports, which are summaries of trace data.

      1. That seems like a good compromise- if they were interested in compromise, that is.

  5. Bloomberg seems to have mis-directed his efforts. He spent city money lobbying in Nevada and Colorado which don’t even show up on the trace information as significant sources for his state.

  6. Did they ever have a broader range for “time since original purchase at FFL”?

    The ones I skimmed had the pattern of almost all guns being purchased “more than three years ago”.

    I seem to remember that the range extended out to 10 years in some reports. (With the dominant factor being beyond-ten-years.)

    RE: the age of the holder of the weapon being research.
    If the average perpetrator of violent crime is fairly young, but the typical Police contact with an illegally-held gun is spread along a broader age range, it might mean that the criminal underworld has developed informal systems for handling guns, and avoiding Police attention while handling guns.

    Or that there is a noticeable number of people who can’t legally own guns, have aged out of the young-and-violent part of life, but want to keep firearms for personal protection.

  7. Age of possessor and caliber are new fields ATF added to the state-by-state tracing reports. Both are interesting and suggests [if not reconfirms] to me that many, many of the firearms being traced are NOT really so-called “crime guns” (firearms used in crime, associated with criminal conduct) because a)how many criminals do you see doing crimes w/ .22 but yet that is the #2 caliber. Does that make sense to you? and b) the data is clear that the age of most criminals is far younger than the average age of the posssser. Not too many 36 gang bangers.

    I say “reconfirms” because we (members of the firearms industry) know from discovery the municipal lawsuits based on the documents produced by the cities, e.g. police reports etc associated with traces from that jurisdiction, that an incredibly high precentage had nothing to do with crimes. The example that sticks out in mind the most was a shotgun traced by the Boston Police that turns out to have been “recovered” behind a couch in Boston police station squad room and was the property of…. wait for it…… THE BOSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT!! Many traced guns were lost guns, found guns, guns turned in by the widow who didn’t want her husband’s guns, guns held for safekeeping, etc etc. Why? One reason is ATF urges all LE agencies to trace every gun that comes in to their possession. Yes, to be sure there were guns that were in fact crime guns and recovered at crime scenes or taken off of bad guys on the street, etc.

    My point is the trace data has lots of built in selection biases and is not a random sampling of crime guns. You cannot therefore draw statistically valid conclusions from the data. This is why congress requires the cautionary proviso on these reports (see the beginning of the reports). The misuse of that in litigation to achieve gun control and/or the destruction of the industry was one of the reasons congress enacted the so-called “Tiahrt Amendment” The anti’s now loop every ATF appropriations restriction they dislike and call it the “Tiahrt Amendment”

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