Excellent article by reporters
Researchers began searching for a definitive explanation why murders in the United States soared to more than 21,000 in 2020.New data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) suggests that newly purchased weapons found their way into crimes much more quickly and often last year than in prior years. This data may prove that new guns led to more murders.
The ATF data are the result of tracing nearly 400,000 firearms in 2020. According to the bureau, firearms are traced only “at the request of a law enforcement agency engaged in a bona fide criminal investigation where a firearm has been used or is suspected to have been used in a crime.” Not all guns recovered by law enforcement are traced, and many guns that are used in crimes are never recovered by law enforcement to begin with. But the ATF’s data are the most robust source available for evaluating the increased use of firearms in the United States in 2020.
Reporters Asher and Arthur discuss the degree to which firearms purchased in 2020 featured in crimes committed in 2020. They say the ATF’s data set includes a measure known as the “time to crime” of each gun traced. Technically, this is the time from when a firearm was legally purchased to when it was recovered after a crime. On this metric, an enormous shift is apparent: The number of traced guns whose time to crime was a year or more increased by less than 1 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, but the number of guns whose time to crime was six months or less increased by 90 percent.
No data exist on exactly how many guns were sold in 2020. The best proxy is the number of firearm background checks performed by the FBI, which indicates an attempted purchase but doesn’t necessarily mean a completed one. These background checks surged dramatically in 2020, first when coronavirus cases began to appear in the U.S. and again after Floyd’s murder at the end of May. Background checks remained remarkably high for the first few months of 2021 but came down a bit during the second half of the year.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a firearm offenses or any other crimes. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.