Newly-Purchased Guns Rarely Used in Crimes

Evidence in Nevada suggests that individuals who commit crimes rarely do so with newly-purchased firearms.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, reported that roughly two-thirds of all firearms recovered by law enforcement agencies in Nevada from 2006 through 2011 had been purchased at least three years prior. Only 5.9 percent had been purchased within three months of their recovery.

That is one of many nuggets that can be mined from annual ATF firearms trace reports that are available for all 50 states.

Trace data comes with several caveats. Among them is the fact that law enforcement agencies can request firearms traces for any reason. As the ATF states on its website, "not all firearms used in crime are traced and not all firearms traced are used in crime."

Law enforcement agencies recovered 19,608 firearms in Nevada from 2006 through 2011, including 10,178 pistols, 3,856 revolvers, 3,040 rifles and 2,167 shotguns. Also recovered were 127 machine guns.

The number of recovered firearms rapidly declined during that six-year period, from 4,533 in 2006 to 2,204 in 2011. The most common categories these firearms fell into were health or safety concerns, 3,591, weapon possession issues, 3,075, family offenses, 2,652, and ties to dangerous drugs, 1,608.

Of the firearms recovered in Nevada, 17,012 or 86.8 percent were found in the Las Vegas area.

When law enforcement agencies trace a firearm they often, but not always, can find out where the gun originally was purchased. Among those instances where the state of origination could be determined, California was the starting point for 1,425 firearms recovered in Nevada, followed by Arizona, 525, Texas, 259 and Utah, 231.

Conversely, 2,824 guns recovered in California during the six-year period were traced to Nevada, indicating the possibility that far more firearms used in crimes are transported from Nevada to California than vice versa.

But that doesn't mean a gun recovered in Nevada or elsewhere came directly from the state where the firearm was initially purchased. The gun could have changed hands either legally or illegally and therefore could have come from a state other than the one the trace identified as the place where the firearm was originally acquired.


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