Firearm Trace Data

Expanding the Use of Firearm Trace Data

Firearm trace data – the tiny imprints on bullet casings left by the firearms that discharged them – are a key clue for investigators to identify firearms used in specific crimes. This information is key to understanding where crime guns are being sourced from, and preventing perpetrators from committing additional crimes.

Yet on the national scene, crime gun data is not universally tracked, traced, or made public. This is true despite the fact that trace data has offered critical insights into how firearms are getting into the hands of dangerous people. According to the Johns Hopkins University for Center for Gun Policy and Research:

  • In Milwaukee, a single gun dealer had sold more than half of crime guns recovered in crimes in that city.
  • In Chicago and Detroit, tracing played a major role in instigating strings on gun dealers violating the law.
  • In Boston, trace data helped show the impact of a major anti-gun trafficking initiative.

Approximately two years ago Chicago was the first city, with funding from Joyce Foundation and the City of Chicago, a partnership with the Chicago Crime Lab undertook the development of a Trace Data Report that traced crime gun activity in the city. But, on the national level, no other city has produced a report since.

The Alliance for Gun Responsibility supports the expansion of firearm trace data utilization within police departments, and making public the findings that stem from these trace data investigations. This data can help break investigations into crimes that have gone unsolved, and help ensure law enforcement resources are directed to have a significant impact in addressing the source of crime guns. The Alliance is investigating opportunities for additional funding, research, and support for law enforcement agencies to make the best use of this critical tool.

“Crime gun trace data are…an important tool in the fight to make our streets, communities, and nation safer.” – Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University