An estimated 1 in 3 American adults own at least one firearm. The most common reasons Americans cite for exercising their Second Amendment rights include personal protection, target shooting, and hunting. But with nearly 400 million civilian-owned firearms in circulation, some have inevitably fallen into the wrong hands, fueling a nationwide surge in gun violence. (Here is a look at the states where people buy the most guns.)
According to the FBI, active shooter incidents climbed by over 50% in 2021 compared to the previous year. Additionally, firearms were involved in over 234,500 violent crimes in 2021, a more than 30% increase from 2020.
Amid rising rates of gun violence, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives reported a spike in firearm trace requests from local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies. Guns that are traced by the ATF are typically those found at crime scenes and are that have either been used, or are suspected to have been used, to commit a crime.
The ATF traced more than 453,500 firearms in 2021, up from 389,300 in 2020 – and the increase is being driven by several states in particular.
Using gun tracing data from the ATF as a proxy for gun crime levels, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states where gun crime is rising fastest. States are ranked by the percent change in the number of firearms traced from 2020 to 2021. In each of the 24 states on this list, the number of guns traced by the ATF increased by over 10%.
Nationwide, the most commonly traced firearms are chambered for 9mm, .40 caliber, and .22 caliber ammunition. In many of the states on this list, these chamberings also account for the largest share of trace requests.
These chamberings are among the most popular in the United States. Their availability – in addition to their concealability, as these chamberings are commonly found in handguns – likely explain their widespread use in crime. (Here is a look at the 50 most popular guns in the world).
Click here to see 24 states where gun-related crimes are surging.
Click here to read our detailed methodology.
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