2020 was a record-breaking year for gun violence in the United States. Driven in part by a 35% year-over-year increase in gun homicide, 45,222 people were killed with a firearm in the U.S. the year, the most ever recorded. In addition, about 150,000 cases of aggravated assault and robbery that were carried out with a gun in 2020.
Many of the firearms found at crime scenes in 2020 were reported by local law enforcement to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for tracing to aid in criminal investigation and prosecution. A trace uses the gun’s serial number to identify the wholesale and retail history of the gun back to its original manufacturer or importer. Firearms with illegally removed serial numbers can be traced using forensic expertise and technology. (Here is a look at the guns used the most to commit crimes in America.)
Data from the ATF’s firearm tracing program reveals that some U.S. cities are especially prone to gun violence.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed ATF data to identify the top three cities in every state where the most guns are traced to crime. Depending on the state, the top three cities where the most firearms were reported to the ATF in 2020 account for between 19% and 93% of all firearms traced in the state that year.
In most states, the city with the most firearms traced by the ATF also ranks as the most populous city in the state. However, in nearly every one of these places, gun tracings are disproportionately high when compared against population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Detroit, for example, is home to less than 7% of Michigan’s population, yet the city accounts for over 60% of all gun tracings in the state. ATF data tells a similar story in places like Chicago, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee, and nearly every other city on this list.
Similarly, at the statewide level, the number of guns traced by the ATF is not always proportional to population. For example, the ATF traced about 11,100 firearms in Louisiana in 2020 compared to only 4,200 in New Jersey – a state with nearly twice as many people as Louisiana. (Here is a look at the states where the most guns are traced by the federal government.)
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