Tracing Stolen Guns in America – Final Project

Almost a month has now passed since the February 14th Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. Having killed 14 students and 3 staff members, this event is the second-deadliest US school shooting in history.

Over the weeks that have passed, conversation regarding gun control is at a peak and some action is even being taken. In fact, Florida enacted a bill this past Friday that raises the minimum age for buying rifles from 18 to 21, bans bump stocks, introduces a three-day waiting period on all gun purchases, and makes it easier for police to confiscate weapons from people deemed a threat.

So while some steps are being taken to protect the greater community from further violence and tragedies, one firearm issue that often goes overlooked is the large numbers of gun theft from legal owners in this country the past few years. Data from the TRACE project uncovers the number or reported guns stolen from legal owners from 2010 to 2016. These numbers have been in the 80,000 to 110,000 range over the past seven years of data that is available.

With the number of guns stolen, it is important to ask the question of what type of guns are being stolen. Much of the debate on gun control is the types of guns that should be bought and sold to individuals from and pistol to a semi-automatic. Looking at the most recent year of stolen guns, 2017, you can get an idea of what was being stolen based off of the descriptions of the firearms.

The data this story and charts uses comes from various law enforcement agencies, and the database of all the information contains complete stolen-gun records for California and Florida. More than 23,000 stolen guns were matched to weapons later recovered by law enforcement with this data which allowed homicides, robberies, sexual assaults, and other violent crimes to be identified that were committed with stolen guns. The data contained over nearly a million total records of stolen and recovered guns. Here’s a visualization of all the places in the United States that a stolen gun has been reported to. California, Florida, and Illinois had higher numbers than anyone, although this does come at the caveat of their reports being extremely thorough.

The numbers are alarming, and its happening all over the country. The more these weapons get into the hands of people they shouldn’t be in, which they consistently are, the more the people of this country and community are vulnerable to violence.