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Pennsylvania Gun Tracing Analytics Platform

Introduction

The Pennsylvania Gun Tracing Analytics Platform shows aggregate data for crime gun traces for firearms recovered in Pennsylvania. This tool is intended to let you explore gun crimes and gun trafficking throughout the Commonwealth and to see where guns recovered in crimes in Pennsylvania originally came from.

A “crime gun” is any gun that is recovered as the result of the investigation of a crime. While this could mean that the gun was used to commit the crime (e.g. gunpoint robbery), it could also be recovered incidental to a crime (e.g. a firearm that was in a person’s car when they were arrested for DUI).

Crime gun traces are performed by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Whenever local law enforcement recovers a crime gun, they are required by law to trace it through ATF. When ATF receives a trace request, it uses the gun’s serial number to track the gun from the original manufacturer to the initial point of sale.

About the data

The only information returned by ATF is the gun’s manufacturer, retail seller, and retail purchaser. No subsequent transfers are captured by a gun trace. For example, if person A buys a gun at a gun store, that transaction will be shown. However, if person A then sells or gives the gun to person B – whether the sale is legal or not – that transaction will not be reflected in the trace report.

Because of this, time to crime statistics for trace data cannot be taken at face value. For example, a gun may be lawfully owned by its original purchaser for 20 years, stolen, and used in a shooting 3 months later. The time to crime in this system will show up as 20 years, not 3 months, since the trace does not know about the subsequent “transfer.”

Furthermore, OAG cannot show you every gun trace in Pennsylvania. In order for a gun to be shown here, the police department who recovered it must use ATF’s online eTrace system. And even if they use the system, they must also opt into data sharing. The data you see here is incomplete because of the many departments who are not using eTrace, and particularly because of larger departments that are not data sharing.

Due to legal restrictions, OAG is not permitted to share data about specific individuals or retailers; nor are we permitted to share data at a more granular level than by county.