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Most Guns Used In New York State Crimes Come From Out Of State

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About 3 in 4 “crime guns” recovered by law enforcement agencies in New York state originally were bought outside the state, according to a report released Tuesday by the state’s attorney general’s office. That finding is consistent with earlier efforts to trace the origins of guns used in New York City crime. (A crime gun is any gun recovered by law enforcement that is connected to a crime.)

Out-of-state guns weren’t necessarily imported with the intent to commit a crime. More than half of the guns recovered1 were originally bought at least 10 years ago, and about 1 in 9 were bought more than 30 years ago. All told, the report estimates that about 1 in 5 of the guns were recently trafficked,2 based on purchase date and other criteria including whether the gun later changed hands in an unrecorded transaction.


The report is based on traces by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The process by which ATF traces guns is extremely complicated, labor-intensive and analog — deliberately so, because of concern by gun owners and lawmakers about overly intrusive governmental meddling in firearm ownership. And the result of those traces often is incomplete. In the New York data set, 12 percent of guns are missing information on the state where they were originally purchased and 42 percent are missing date of purchase.

Read More: Gun Deaths in America


  1. At least 55 percent, based on mousing over the columns in the online report. The report admirably includes much of the data used for the analysis, but doesn’t allow for downloading the data in a useful format. (About 42 percent of guns didn’t have any date information and aren’t included in the calculation.)

  2. Law-enforcement agencies consider a gun to be “trafficked” when it is bought with the intention of illegally selling or transferring it.

Carl Bialik was FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for news.