Washington, D.C., April 28, 2022 - Today, Brady releases “Uncovering the Truth About Pennsylvania Crime Guns,” a new report analyzing criminal firearm trace data on the Pennsylvania Gun Tracing Analytics Platform. This dataset is the largest collection of trace data that the public has seen in over 20 years and includes data for 186,000 crime guns from over 150 law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania.
Brady President Kris Brown shared:
“This dataset and report illustrate why supply side strategies are critical to stemming the flow of illegal guns and stopping gun violence. Improving gun sale processes and regulations, strengthening inspections of gun dealers, and enforcing the law when infractions occur will save lives and prevent gun violence.
Brady’s call is simple: we must improve processes and transparency at the local, state, and federal levels to improve dealer practices and stop the flow of firearms to the illegal market. This data was regularly available to the public, before the gun lobby enlisted Congress to hide it without any regard to the impact it has had to public safety and our understanding of how crime guns flow into our communities. The last time national trace data was available, it showed that only about 5 percent of dealers transferred 90 percent of crime guns. This report backs up the fact that a small subset of gun dealers are fueling violence in Pennsylvania. Improving gun industry business practices will prevent the flow of these firearms to the illegal market and will save lives.”
Brady Midwest Crime Guns Program Manager Anneliese Dickman shared:
“Publicly available trace data is an essential tool for identifying and holding accountable those irresponsible gun dealers and manufacturers who cater to the illegal gun trafficking market. Families of the injured and killed deserve to know how their loved ones were harmed; communities deserve to know where the crime guns that flood their streets are coming from; and the public deserves the opportunity to hold the gun industry accountable for its role in supplying crime guns.
Trace data allows us to shift the burden of preventing gun violence upstream, to the gun manufacturers, marketers, and small number of dealers selling guns that are diverted to the illegal market. Without it, we have unfairly been asking the communities suffering the costs of gun violence to also have all the solutions. This is why data transparency is a racial justice issue."
19,673 of the firearms traced to PA dealers were recovered in an investigation into a violent crime. Of these, 3,136 are associated with a homicide.
51 percent of crime guns recovered in Philadelphia originated in Pennsylvania, while 65 percent of crime guns recovered in Pittsburgh originated in Pennsylvania.
Consistent with piecemeal national studies, a small number of Pennsylvania dealers account for a majority of Pennsylvania crime guns.
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have a home-grown crime gun problem, where crime guns mostly originate from dealers in the respective city.
Dealers with the most traces tend to be independent businesses.
Crime guns circulate long after their dealers go out of business, meaning that it will take time for improvements at point of sale to be seen or felt in communities.
Other jurisdictions should follow Pennsylvania’s decision to be more transparent with trace data.
Federal, state, and local law enforcement should use gun tracing data to inform enforcement and oversight strategies against upstream sources of crime guns.
State and local elected officials in Pennsylvania should use the report’s findings as motivation to consider ways in which they can better regulate problematic gun dealers.
State elected officials should consider implementing a permit-to-purchase requirement.
Gun dealers should adopt Brady’s Gun Dealer Code of Conduct to avoid supplying the criminal market or making other risky sales.
Gun manufacturers should stop supplying guns to dealers that sell a large number of crime guns with short time to crimes.
Congress should repeal the damaging Tiahrt Amendment, which has stopped the public from seeing trace data for almost 20 years
The Senate should confirm President Biden’s nominee to lead the ATF
About This Dataset:
This report analyzes trace data for 186,000 crime guns recovered by over 150 law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania. The dataset was downloaded on August 24, 2021 from the publicly available data on the Pennsylvania Gun Tracing Analytics Platform. Traces in the database date back to 1977, while the most recent trace at the time this dataset was downloaded occurred in 2020. Notably, this dataset does not include crime guns recovered by local Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies that have opted against sharing trace data, and so while extensive, is not comprehensive.
In 2003, Congress passed an amendment pushed by the gun industry on the 2003 federal appropriations bill. This amendment, called the Tiahrt Amendment, restricts the ATF from spending funds to make certain raw trace data available to the public. Prior to this amendment, the ATF conducted and made public an annual nationwide analysis on the origins of crime guns. In response, the ATF has adopted an overly broad interpretation of the amendment that very little information related to trace data ever makes its way to the public, hiding the best national data on the sources and paths of crime guns from researchers, journalists, and the general public.
What is a Crime Gun:
A crime gun is a gun that has been recovered by law enforcement after being used — or suspected of having been used — in a crime, or whose possession may in itself have been a crime. A crime gun might be a stolen firearm, a firearm found at a scene of a crime, or a firearm used in a crime. Almost every crime gun has one factor in common: It originated from a firearm manufacturer. A 2019 Department of Justice report estimated that 43% of all crime guns come from the “illegal firearm market.” However, firearms obtained via such illicit commerce originate from somewhere, most often starting with their manufacture, then distribution, and eventual sale by a licensed dealer.
What is Trace Data:
When a firearm is found at or associated with a crime scene, law enforcement agencies have the ability to trace it through the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Local law enforcement agencies can enter the make, model, caliber, and serial number of a specific firearm into the ATF’s eTrace system, allowing them to follow the flow of that firearm from its legal construction or importation by a manufacturer/importer, wholesaler, or distributor, to a federally licensed firearms dealer, and finally to the firearm’s original purchaser.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.