National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment (NFCTA): Firearms Trafficking Investigations - Volume Three

Gun and bullets on a desk next to a computer

ATF Firearms Trace Data Disclaimer
Firearm traces are designed to assist law enforcement authorities in conducting investigations by tracking the sale and possession of specific firearms. Law enforcement agencies may request firearms traces for any investigative reason, and those reasons are not necessarily reported to the federal government. Not all firearms used in crime are traced and not all firearms traced are used in crime. Firearms selected for tracing are not chosen for purposes of determining which types, makes or models of firearms are used for illicit purposes. The firearms selected do not constitute a random sample and should not be considered representative of the larger universe of all firearms used by criminals, or any subset of that universe. Firearms are normally traced to the first retail seller, and sources reported for firearms traced do not necessarily represent the sources or methods by which firearms in general are acquired for use in crime.

Data Limitations
The data analyzed in this report represent crime guns and crime gun evidence recovered by LEAs between 2017 and 2021 that were submitted to ATF for tracing (Firearms Tracing System (FTS) and/or processed for ballistic evidence (NIBIN). Firearm tracing and ballistic imaging policies and practices vary across LEAs. For those jurisdictions with comprehensive firearm tracing and ballistic imaging policies in place, crime gun trace data and ballistic imaging data can be considered representative samples of the population of guns used by offenders in those jurisdictions. As such, the analytic results presented in this report are limited to this sample of recovered crime guns and crime gun evidence and are not necessarily representative of all crime guns used by offenders in the U.S. or in other countries during the study period.

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Last Reviewed April 4, 2024