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Here’s the Truth About California’s Nation-Leading Crime Guns

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Firearms seized from a criminal street gang are displayed at the San Bernardino Police Station, Dec. 9, 2021. (Watchara Phomicinda/The Orange County Register via AP, File)
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The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has gathered research from 2017-2021 tracking firearms used in crimes nationwide and how they relate to gun violence in California.

According to the report, the most popular crime gun is the Glock 9mm pistol, followed by the Taurus 9mm pistol and the Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol.

The report titled National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment Crime Guns – Volume Two reveals that the number of stolen guns used in crimes is on the rise. The report also states that the time from a gun’s legal purchase to its use in a crime has substantially shortened.

California Leads Nation in Crime Guns

From 2017 to 2021, law enforcement recovered 1.9 million crime guns nationwide and submitted them to ATF for tracing.

Of that total, nearly 232,000 (12.1%) were traced to California, the highest in the nation.

Los Angeles alone had 30,798 crime guns traced back to it. These numbers are swelled by firearms stolen from residents and federally licensed firearm dealers.

According to federal data, the thefts are nearly always from private citizens or offices in burglaries, robberies, and larcenies.

In contrast, California had just 166 theft incidents from licensed gun dealers. These totaled 839 firearms, an average of five stolen firearms per incident. The peak year was 2020, when 241 firearms were stolen in 34 incidents. Of the 839 stolen firearms, 402 of them were pistols, followed by 215 rifles,  and 104 shotguns.

Texas and Florida are No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in guns traced to crimes. Texas had nearly 178,000 between 2017 and 2021, and Florida had about 135,000.

The state with the fewest crime guns for the period was Hawaii, with 1,194, the data showed.

According to the report, the most popular crime gun is the Glock 9mm pistol, followed by the Taurus 9mm pistol and the Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol.

Watch: How to Store a Gun Safely and Securely  

Straw Purchases on the Rise in Women and Young Adults

More than 1 million traced crime guns had information for the possessor at the time of the crime as well as the purchaser of the firearm. Of this data, 82.7% were found to be in possession of someone who did not purchase the gun initially.


Source: ATF Crime Gun Intelligence and Analysis

While just under 12% of crime guns were purchased by women in California, only 5.6% of the firearms were in possession of a woman at the time they were recovered. This suggests that there has been a significant increase in straw sales of firearms, which occurs when an individual purchases a gun for someone who is prohibited by law from possessing one.

Source: ATF Crime Gun Intelligence and Analysis

‘Time to Crime’ Rates Decrease Substantially

The “time to crime” data is tracked from the last known retail sale of a firearm to when it was recovered in a crime.

From 2017 to 2021, 46% of the traced crime guns’ time-to-crime period occurred within three years; nearly 25% had a time-crime period of less than a year.

California’s average time-to-crime rate was roughly 4.6 years from the retail sale of a firearm to recovery from a gun crime.

Brian was born and raised in Lemoore, CA where he grew up working on his grandfather's dairy. He attended CSU Fresno and graduated with a degree in Agriculture Education and Agribusiness. Newly engaged, Brian resides in Clovis with his fiancé and cat, bingeing the latest Netflix series, or cooking new meals every weekend. He is also always looking for great book suggestions and loves to experience new restaurants around the city. Brian is eager to join the Granville family and is excited to grow connections!

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