Special Report

Virginia Has Ranked Among the Worst States for Gun Crime for Over a Decade

Nathan Howard / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Firearm sales have hit historic highs in the U.S. in recent years, and the ongoing proliferation of firearms may be fueling a rise in gun crime.

When firearms are recovered at a crime scene or taken from a suspect, they are often reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for tracing. In these cases, the ATF assists in criminal investigations by using serial numbers and other markings to determine when and where a firearm was originally purchased — and over the last 12 years, firearm-related offenses have been taking up a growing share of federal resources.

Between 2010 and 2022, the number of guns traced by the ATF surged by 174%, from 145,600 to 399,400, climbing by anywhere from 3% to 18% in a single year. Most homicides in the U.S. are committed with a firearm, and over the same period, the national homicide rate climbed by over 50%.

While not all guns traced by the ATF were used in a crime — and not all firearms used for illicit purposes are traced — federal tracing data offers valuable insight into trends and geographic patterns related to gun violence in the United States.

Mirroring the national trend, gun tracings are up sharply in Virginia. The ATF traced 11,909 seized firearms in the state in 2022, compared to 5,273 in 2010. Adjusting for population, gun crime has long been more common in Virginia than it is across the U.S. as a whole. In each of the last 13 years, the number of firearm tracings for every 100,000 people in the state was above the comparable national rate.

As of 2022, the most recent year of available data, the ATF traced 137 seized firearms for every 100,000 people in the state, the 16th highest gun-tracing rate among states.

2010: 5,273 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2010: 65.7 per 100,000 people (9th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2010: 47.1 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2010: 4.7 per 100,000 people (21st highest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2010: 4.8 per 100,000 people

2011: 4,505 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2011: 55.6 per 100,000 people (13th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2011: 47.9 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2011: 3.8 per 100,000 people (22nd lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2011: 4.7 per 100,000 people

2012: 5,072 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2012: 62.0 per 100,000 people (12th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2012: 49.8 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2012: 3.9 per 100,000 people (24th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2012: 4.7 per 100,000 people

2013: 5,264 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2013: 63.7 per 100,000 people (15th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2013: 52.6 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2013: 3.9 per 100,000 people (23rd lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2013: 4.5 per 100,000 people

2014: 5,189 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2014: 62.3 per 100,000 people (17th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2014: 53.4 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2014: 4.2 per 100,000 people (25th highest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2014: 4.4 per 100,000 people

2015: 5,789 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2015: 69.1 per 100,000 people (16th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2015: 59.3 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2015: 4.7 per 100,000 people (24th highest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2015: 4.9 per 100,000 people

2016: 6,626 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2016: 78.8 per 100,000 people (15th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2016: 65.4 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2016: 5.7 per 100,000 people (21st highest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2016: 5.4 per 100,000 people

2017: 7,778 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2017: 91.8 per 100,000 people (13th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2017: 73.4 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2017: 5.6 per 100,000 people (22nd highest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2017: 5.3 per 100,000 people

2018: 8,197 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2018: 96.2 per 100,000 people (13th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2018: 77.9 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2018: 4.9 per 100,000 people (23rd highest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2018: 5.0 per 100,000 people

2019: 8,793 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2019: 103.0 per 100,000 people (15th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2019: 82.0 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2019: 5.2 per 100,000 people (20th highest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2019: 5.1 per 100,000 people

2020: 9,910 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2020: 116.5 per 100,000 people (14th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2020: 93.9 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2020: 6.1 per 100,000 people (24th highest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2020: 6.5 per 100,000 people

2021: 10,242 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2021: 118.5 per 100,000 people (19th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2021: 108.9 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2021: 7.7 per 100,000 people
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2021: 7.7 per 100,000 people

2022: 11,909 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia, 2022: 137.1 per 100,000 people (16th highest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2022: 119.8 per 100,000 people
  • Virginia homicide rate, 2022: 8.4 per 100,000 people (16th highest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2022: 7.3 per 100,000 people

Year Firearm tracings per 100,000 people in Virginia Firearm tracings per 100,000 people in the US Total firearms traced by the ATF in Virginia Total firearms traced by the ATF in the US
2022 137.1 119.8 11,909 399,397
2021 118.5 108.9 10,242 361,587
2020 116.5 93.9 9,910 306,686
2019 103.0 82.0 8,793 269,250
2018 96.2 77.9 8,197 254,700
2017 91.8 73.4 7,778 239,175
2016 78.8 65.4 6,626 211,384
2015 69.1 59.3 5,789 190,538
2014 62.3 53.4 5,189 170,344
2013 63.7 52.6 5,264 166,426
2012 62.0 49.8 5,072 156,346
2011 55.6 47.9 4,505 149,276
2010 65.7 47.1 5,273 145,604

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