Special Report

Washington Has Had One of the Lowest Gun Crime Rates For Over a Decade

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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 Washington state. The ATF traced 4,777 seized firearms in the state in 2022, compared to 2,273 in 2010. Still, adjusting for population, gun crime appears far less common in Washington 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 below the comparable national rate.

As of 2022, the most recent year of available data, the ATF traced 61.4 seized firearms for every 100,000 people in the state, the 10th lowest gun-tracing rate among states.

2010: 2,273 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2010: 33.7 per 100,000 people (23rd lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2010: 47.1 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2010: 2.3 per 100,000 people (11th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2010: 4.8 per 100,000 people

2011: 2,270 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2011: 33.2 per 100,000 people (19th lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2011: 47.9 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2011: 2.4 per 100,000 people (11th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2011: 4.7 per 100,000 people

2012: 2,568 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2012: 37.2 per 100,000 people (22nd lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2012: 49.8 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2012: 3.1 per 100,000 people (19th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2012: 4.7 per 100,000 people

2013: 2,771 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2013: 39.7 per 100,000 people (21st lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2013: 52.6 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2013: 2.4 per 100,000 people (14th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2013: 4.5 per 100,000 people

2014: 2,607 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2014: 36.9 per 100,000 people (20th lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2014: 53.4 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2014: 2.5 per 100,000 people (13th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2014: 4.4 per 100,000 people

2015: 2,765 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2015: 38.6 per 100,000 people (15th lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2015: 59.3 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2015: 3.0 per 100,000 people (14th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2015: 4.9 per 100,000 people

2016: 3,074 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2016: 42.2 per 100,000 people (14th lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2016: 65.4 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2016: 2.7 per 100,000 people (12th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2016: 5.4 per 100,000 people

2017: 3,730 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2017: 50.4 per 100,000 people (16th lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2017: 73.4 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2017: 3.0 per 100,000 people (16th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2017: 5.3 per 100,000 people

2018: 3,880 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2018: 51.5 per 100,000 people (13th lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2018: 77.9 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2018: 3.1 per 100,000 people (19th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2018: 5.0 per 100,000 people

2019: 3,994 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2019: 52.4 per 100,000 people (11th lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2019: 82.0 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2019: 2.7 per 100,000 people (14th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2019: 5.1 per 100,000 people

2020: 4,071 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2020: 54.2 per 100,000 people (11th lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2020: 93.9 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2020: 3.9 per 100,000 people (16th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2020: 6.5 per 100,000 people

2021: 4,288 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2021: 55.4 per 100,000 people (11th lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2021: 108.9 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2021: 4.7 per 100,000 people
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2021: 7.7 per 100,000 people

2022: 4,777 firearms traced by the ATF

  • Firearms traced by the ATF in Washington, 2022: 61.4 per 100,000 people (10th lowest)
  • Firearms traced by the ATF nationwide, 2022: 119.8 per 100,000 people
  • Washington homicide rate, 2022: 5.9 per 100,000 people (20th lowest)
  • U.S. homicide rate, 2022: 7.3 per 100,000 people

 

Year Firearm tracings per 100,000 people in Washington Firearm tracings per 100,000 people in the US Total firearms traced by the ATF in Washington Total firearms traced by the ATF in the US
2022 61.4 119.8 4,777 399,397
2021 55.4 108.9 4,288 361,587
2020 54.2 93.9 4,071 306,686
2019 52.4 82.0 3,994 269,250
2018 51.5 77.9 3,880 254,700
2017 50.4 73.4 3,730 239,175
2016 42.2 65.4 3,074 211,384
2015 38.6 59.3 2,765 190,538
2014 36.9 53.4 2,607 170,344
2013 39.7 52.6 2,771 166,426
2012 37.2 49.8 2,568 156,346
2011 33.2 47.9 2,270 149,276
2010 33.7 47.1 2,273 145,604

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