Firearm offenders are generally younger, have a more extensive criminal history, and are more likely to commit a new crime than other offenders. 93.6 percent had at least one prior conviction. It’s a crime that increased by 45% since FY 2015.
Firearm offenders are more likely than other offenders to engage in violent criminal behavior.
Gun violence fills our news headlines. Data on violent or firearm offenders is hard to come by which makes the research below from the US Sentencing Commission focusing on federal inmates important.
Please note that federal and state correctional systems vary considerably. Federal offenders are principally imprisoned for major drug and immigration offenses. State incarcerations are mostly for violent offenses.
Regardless, in this era of rising violence and fear of crime, the more we know about firearm offenders, the better equipped we are in dealing with them. There are few differences between federal and state firearm offenders; the federal experience is instructive for state justice practitioners.
Most federal firearm offenders have prior convictions for a violent offense-61 percent. Most have long or complex criminal histories. Most will recidivate via new arrests at higher levels than other offenders. Their involvement with stolen or altered or prohibited firearms is considerable.
US Sentencing Commission
Published July 14, 2022.
This report provides in-depth information on federal firearms offenders sentenced under the primary firearms guideline, §2K2.1. The Commission has published reports on various aspects of firearms offenses, including reports on armed career criminals, mandatory minimum penalties, and firearms offenders’ recidivism rates.
The Commission’s prior research shows that firearms offenders are generally younger, have a more extensive criminal history, and are more likely to commit a new crime than other offenders (emphasis added).
The Commission’s previous research also shows that firearms offenders are more likely than other offenders to engage in violent criminal behavior (emphasis added).
Firearms offenses are among the most common crimes prosecuted and sentenced in federal court and a crime type that has increased by 45% since FY 2015.
89% of federal firearms offenders were prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Federal firearms crimes often involved weapons that were stolen (32%) or prohibited (24%), such as a sawed-off shotgun or machine gun.
When firearms are discharged, physical harm resulted in about one-quarter of such cases (18% injury to another, 4% death, 4% injury to self).
Federal firearms offenders have more serious and more extensive criminal histories than other offenders. Firearms offenders are more than twice as likely to have violent prior conviction compared to other offenders (61% vs. 29%).
The average sentence for federal firearms offenders was 42 months, on average, but varied depending on the presence of aggravating factors.
In more than one-quarter of cases, the firearm facilitated, or had the potential to facilitate, another felony offense (most commonly drug trafficking).
In 11.0 percent of cases, an offender or co-participant discharged a firearm. In these cases, death resulted in 4.1 percent of the cases and injury to another person in 18.3 percent of the cases.
Approximately one-third (32.4%) of the offenders prohibited from possessing a firearm committed an offense involving a stolen firearm or firearm with an altered or obliterated serial number.
Nearly one-quarter (23.6%) of the offenders prohibited from possessing a firearm committed an offense involving a prohibited weapon (such as a sawed-off shotgun or machine gun).
Firearms offenders have more extensive criminal histories than other federal offenders. Of the felony offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2021, 93.6 percent had at least one prior conviction.
Firearms offenders differ from the general federal offender population with respect to multiple demographic factors. In fiscal year 2021, a majority of firearms offenders were Black (54.5%) and U.S. citizens (96.1%). Nearly all were male (96.2%). In contrast, a majority of all other federal offenders were Hispanic (56.5%), 60.8 percent were U.S. citizens, and 85.2 percent were male.
While there are endless discussions regarding the efficacy of incarceration, it seems that we have a category of offenders that clearly meets the definition of dangerous. They need to be incarcerated.
Violent firearm offenders are destroying cities and economies with mayors begging for arrests. Unsolved shootings dominate the urban landscape. Only 50 percent of homicides are solved-cleared. If not caught, it’s almost certain they will shoot-murder again.
Per data from the US Sentencing Commission, long prison sentences dramatically reduce future re-offending. The odds of recidivism were approximately 29 percent lower for federal offenders sentenced to more than 120 months of incarceration compared to a matched group of federal offenders receiving shorter sentences.
It seems obvious that the focus of our crime reduction efforts must be violent firearm offenders.