U.S. Sentencing Commission Releases Report: “What Do Federal Firearm Offenses Really Look Like?

The Federal Docket

July 18, 2022

This month, the Sentencing Commission released a new report regarding federal firearm offenses. The report primarily looks at the kinds of sentences imposed on firearm offenders, including the Guidelines for more firearm offenses under USSG 2K2.1. The report includes data on recidivism rates, penalties, offender demographics, propensity for violence, etc.

As Professor Berman of the Sentencing Law and Policy Blog identified:

  • Firearms offenses are among the most common crimes prosecuted and sentenced in federal court….
  • The guidelines exert a strong influence on the sentences imposed in firearms cases.
    • In fiscal year 2021, half (49.6%) of the felony offenders sentenced under §2K2.1 received a sentence within the guideline range, which is approximately ten percentage points higher than the within guideline range rate for all other offenders.
  • Firearms offenders sentenced under §2K2.1 have criminal histories that are more extensive and more serious than other offenders.
    • Firearms offenders were more than twice as likely to have a prior conviction for a violent offense compared to all other offenders (60.6% compared to 29.0%).
  • The vast majority of firearms offenders (88.8%) sentenced under §2K2.1 were prohibited from possessing a firearm.
    • Prohibited persons include offenders with a prior felony conviction or status in another prohibited class, such as aliens unlawfully in the United States, fugitives from justice, or persons who unlawfully use or are addicted to controlled substances.
  • In addition to most §2K2.1 offenders being prohibited from possessing a firearm, firearms offenders often engaged in aggravating criminal conduct.
    • In more than one-quarter of §2K2.1 cases, the firearm facilitated, or had the potential to facilitate, another felony offense (most commonly drug trafficking)….
  • Firearms offenses often involved stolen firearms or particularly dangerous weapons.
  • The average sentence for §2K2.1 firearms offenders varied depending on the presence of aggravating factors.
    • Prohibited persons who did not engage in aggravating conduct received an average sentence of 35 months.
    • Courts imposed longer sentences on prohibited persons whose offenses involved:
      • a stolen firearm or a firearm with an altered or obliterated serial number (55 months);
      • a prohibited weapon (such as a sawed-off shotgun or machine gun) (58 months);
      • trafficking in firearms (62 months);
      • or the use of, or conspiracy to use, a firearm in connection with a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime (119 months).”

Click here to read the report.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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