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US Bureau of Justice Statistics
Added August, 2003

Firearms and Crime Statistics


  • According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) in 2000, 533,470 victims of serious violent crimes (rape and sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault) stated that they faced an offender with a firearm.
  • Victimizations involving a firearm represented 8% of the 6.3 million violent crimes of rape and sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault.
  • The FBI's Crime in the United States estimated that 66% of the 15,517 murders in 2000 were committed with firearms.

    For more information about weapons used in homicide see the Weapons Section of Homicide Trends in the United States and Homicide Trends and Characteristics in Data Online.

Reported Crime

 After falling to levels last experienced in the 1980's, the number of crimes committed with firearms stabilized in 2000.

Crimes committed with firearms, 1973-2000


  • From 1993 through 1997, less than 1% of serious nonfatal violent victimizations resulted in gunshot wounds.
  • The number of gunshot wounds from assaults treated in hospital emergency departments fell from 64,100 in 1993 to 39,400 in 1997, a 39% decline.


  • According to the 1997 Survey of State Prison Inmates, among those possessing a gun, the source of the gun was from -

    • a flea market or gun show for fewer than 2%
    • a retail store or pawnshop for about 12%
    • family, friends, a street buy, or an illegal source for 80%
  • During the offense that brought them to prison, 15% of State inmates and 13% of Federal inmates carried a handgun, and about 2%, a military-style semiautomatic gun.
  • On average, State inmates possessing a firearm received sentences of 18 years, while those without a weapon had an average sentence of 12 years.
  • Among prisoners carrying a firearm during their crime, 40% of State inmates and 56% of Federal inmates received a sentence enhancement because of the firearm.

BJS Publications

This list is in order of the most recent publication first. Additional titles are listed on other topical pages and a comprehensive list is contained on the BJS publications page. To see a full abstract of a publication with links to electronic versions of the publication, click on the title below.

Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales, Midyear 2002, 4/03. Provides an overview of the firearm check procedures in each of the States and their interaction with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) operated by the FBI. NCJ 198830

Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales, Midyear 2001, 4/02. NCJ 192065
Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales, Midyear 2000, 4/01. NCJ 186766
Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales, Midyear 1999, 3/00. NCJ 179022
Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales, 1997, 12/98. NCJ 173942
Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales, 1996, 9/97. NCJ 160705
Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales, 5/96. NCJ 160763

Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2001, 9/02. Describes background checks for firearm transfers conducted in 2001. NCJ 195235

Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2000, 7/01. NCJ 187985
Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999, 6/99. NCJ 180882

Data on this subject for the Brady Interim period prior to the permanent provisions are available in Presale Handgun Checks, the Brady Interim Period, 1994-98.

Firearm Use by Offenders, 11/01. Describes firearm use of State and Federal prison inmates including types of firearms used, characteristics of inmates using firearms, why and where inmates used their firearms, and where they obtained their firearms. NCJ 189369.

Firearm Injury and Death from Crime, 1993-97 10/00 Reports on the incidence of fatal and nonfatal firearm injuries that result from crime. Most of the data presented are from the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vital Statistics and the Firearms Injury Surveillance Study which collects data on injuries treated in hospital emergency departments. NCJ 182993

Federal Firearm Offenders 1992-98: With Preliminary Data for 1999, 6/00. Describes trends associated with the prosecution of firearm offenders in U.S. district courts between 1992 and 1999. NCJ 180795

Presale Handgun Checks, the Brady Interim Period, 1994-98, 6/99. Provides a national estimate of the number of presale background checks conducted in connection with proposed firearm purchases, the number and percent of rejections, and the basis for the rejections. NCJ 175034 (Data on this subject after the Brady interim period are in Background Checks of Firearm Transfers, 1999)

Presale Handgun Checks, 1997, 6/98. NCJ 171130
Presale Handgun Checks, 1996, 9/97. NCJ 165704
Presale Firearm Checks, 2/97. NCJ 162787

Firearm Injury from Crime: Firearms, Crime, and Criminal Justice, 4/96. Reports available statistical information from a number of sources on fatal and nonfatal firearm injury that results from crime. NCJ 160093

Weapons Offenses and Offenders: Firearms, Crime, and Criminal Justice-- Selected Findings, 11/95. Presents data on how the criminal and juvenile justice systems deal with weapons offenses (violation of statutes or regulations that control deadly weapons) and offenders from arrest through incarceration. NCJ 155284

Guns Used in Crime: Firearms, Crime, and Criminal Justice-- Selected Findings, 7/95. Provides information from several sources about the guns used by criminals. NCJ 148201

Federal Firearms-Related Offenses: Federal Offenses and Offenders, 7/95. Notes the association between firearms involvement and an increased severity of sentence as well as a more extensive criminal history for Federal prisoners. NCJ 148950

Guns and Crime: Handgun Victimization, Firearm Self-Defense, and Firearm Theft, 5/94. Provides estimates of the extent of handgun crime in the United States through 1992, as well as estimates from the National Crime Victimization Survey of thefts of firearms and the extent of firearm use for self-defense. NCJ 147003

Firearms and Crimes of Violence, 2/94. This report summarizes selected findings on trends in firearm use in serious violent crime, based on FBI data on homicide, BJS data on victimization and inmate firearm use, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on firearm ownership by high school students. NCJ 146844

This document is not necessarily endorsed by the Almanac of Policy Issues. It is being preserved  in the Policy Archive for historic reasons.

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