Mass shootings have become a tragic staple in the American news cycle. According to the non-profit organization Gun Violence Archive, there have been over 640 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2022 – including the massacre at the Uvalde, Texas elementary school that left 21 dead, including 19 children, and the shooting in a Buffalo, New York supermarket, where 10 people were killed. Though these horrific incidents receive widespread media coverage, when it comes to gun-crimes in America, they are only the tip of the iceberg.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives traced a total of over 456,000 firearms likely linked to a crime in the United States in 2021, the most recent year of available data. Each of these traced firearms are assigned one of 59 specific categories that describe the circumstances in which it was recovered by law enforcement.
Because each of these categories is tied to a firearm that has been confiscated or otherwise obtained by law enforcement, the most commonly cited classifications are those that necessarily involve a firearm. These include “carrying a concealed weapon” and “possession of a weapon.” However, the vast majority of ATF categories for traced firearms are criminal acts that do not, by definition, need to involve a gun.
Using 2021 ATF gun tracing data, 24/7 Wall St. identified the types of crimes in every state that most commonly involve the use of a gun. We only considered categories that were explicitly criminal acts, excluding those which, by definition, will always involve a firearm, such as weapon possession.
In the vast majority of states, the category most commonly cited by the ATF are incidents involving drugs. A total of more than 63,000 firearms traced by the ATF in 2021 were linked exclusively to drug related incidents. (This is the county with the worst drug problem in every state.)
Other common circumstances on this list include traffic offenses, domestic disputes, burglary, aggravated assault, suicide, and homicide. (Here is a look at the firearm calibers used the most to commit crimes in the U.S.)
Click here to see the most common gun-related crimes in each state.
Click here to see our detailed methodology.
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