Firearm Trace Data

Lost and Stolen Firearms

Lost and stolen firearms are a major a source of crime guns. These weapons, which have moved from the legal market into illegal trade, pose a significant risk to community safety. In Washington, we’ve put laws into place to give gun owners an additional incentive to report lost and stolen firearms; some cities now even require gun owners report losses and thefts to local law enforcement. And, while WA state ranks 25th in firearm theft from dealers, studies show that our state has the 10th most firearm thefts from individuals, higher than many states with lax gun laws like Missouri and Arkansas.

Trace data reporting will help track these firearms through the market. The reporting, which relies on firearm serial numbers and dealer records to provide an outline of a gun’s travels from dealer to crime, can help communities and law enforcement respond to and close off the sources of crime guns in our state. Right now, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, in partnership with researchers and law enforcement, is completing a trace data report on crime guns in a major Washington city. This report will help the city develop appropriate legislative and law enforcement responses to address firearms before they make it to the illegal market.

Expanding the Use of Firearm Trace Data

Firearm trace data are a key clue for investigators to identify firearms used in specific crimes. This information is key to understanding where crime guns are being sourced from, and preventing perpetrators from committing additional crimes.

Yet on the national scene, crime gun data is not universally tracked, traced, or made public. This is true despite the fact that trace data has offered critical insights into how firearms are getting into the hands of dangerous people. According to the Johns Hopkins University for Center for Gun Policy and Research:

  • In Milwaukee, a single gun dealer had sold more than half of crime guns recovered in crimes in that city.
  • In Chicago and Detroit, tracing played a major role in instigating stings on gun dealers violating the law.
  • In Boston, trace data helped show the impact of a major anti-gun trafficking initiative.

In 2013, Chicago was the first city, with funding from Joyce Foundation and the City of Chicago, and in partnership with the Chicago Crime Lab, to develop a Trace Data Report that traced crime gun activity in the city.

The Alliance for Gun Responsibility supports the expansion of firearm trace data utilization within police departments, and making public the findings that stem from these trace data investigations. This data can help break investigations into crimes that have gone unsolved, and help ensure law enforcement resources are directed to have a significant impact in addressing the source of crime guns.