States Where the Most Guns are Traced by the Federal Government

Deadly gun violence has been on the rise in the United States for years. Including both murder and suicide, 48,830 Americans were killed by firearms in 2021, both a record-high and a 23% increase from 2019. When it comes to gun violence in America, these incidents are only the tip of the iceberg. A total of 690,158 violent crimes – such as robbery and aggravated assault – were reported to the FBI in 2021, and over a third of them involved a gun. 

When firearms are recovered at crime scenes, they are often reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for tracing. In these cases, the ATF uses the serial number, make and model, and other markings of the firearm to identify its origin, all the way back to its original retail sale. This information can be invaluable in linking individuals to specific firearms and identifying criminal suspects during an investigation. (Here is a look at the senators doing the most to regulate guns.)

More than 453,000 firearms were traced by the ATF in 2021, but federal assistance in gun crime investigations is far more common in some states than in others. 

Using 2021 data from the ATF, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states where the most guns are traced by the federal government. States are ranked by the number of firearms traced by the ATF for every 100,000 people in the state. Population adjustment calculations were made using population data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey. 

It is important to note that while federal firearm tracings are typically conducted as part of criminal investigations, not all traced guns are necessarily used in the commission of a crime and not all firearms used in crimes are traced. 

Depending on the state, the number of firearms traced in 2021 ranges from 115 to over 54,000. Adjusting for population, gun-tracing rates go from as low as 8 for every 100,000 people up to nearly 300 per 100,000. 

Nationwide, pistols – specifically semi-automatic handguns – are the best-selling type of firearm. In every state, pistols account for the largest share of traced guns, accounting for over 80% of all tracings in some parts of the country. 

Not surprisingly, the most commonly traced firearm calibers are those most usually found in handguns. These include firearms chambered for ammunition in .40 caliber, .380 caliber, and 9mm, the most commonly traced caliber nationwide. (Here is a look at how hard it is to buy a handgun in every state.)

Click here to see states where the most guns are traced by the federal government.

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