Weapons used in Maryland crimes often purchased in other states

The Baltimore Police Department found these guns during a recent raid on the Safe Streets offices on E. Monument Street in July.
The Baltimore Police Department found these guns during a recent raid on the Safe Streets offices on E. Monument Street in July. (Tom Brenner / Baltimore Sun)

Many weapons used to commit crimes in Maryland were originally purchased in other states — often states with more lenient gun laws, according to data released by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The ATF traced the origin of 5,079 firearms recovered in Maryland in 2014. The agency found that 2,208 of those firearms originated in other states.


Pennsylvania (309) and Virginia (533) were the biggest providers of guns to Maryland, but more distant states like Florida (129), Texas (70), Georgia (114) and North Carolina (157) were also significant sources.

The map below shows the flow of traced firearms to Maryland in 2014.

Maryland gun trace graphic

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which produces an annual Gun Law State Scorecard, gives Maryland a grade of A-minus, indicating that its gun laws are among the toughest in the country. The top source states to Maryland had significantly lower ratings — C for Pennsylvania; D for Virginia; and F for North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Texas — indicating more lenient gun laws.

The map below shows gun-law grades for the top 15 source states for firearms to Maryland (from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence)

State gun law grades graphic

Ten of the top 15 source states, including West Virginia, North Carolina, Texas and Florida, do not limit the number of firearms that can be purchased at one time. Maryland prohibits the purchase of more than one handgun or assault rifle within a 30-day period.

Firearms are traced by the ATF to the first retail seller of the weapon, and traces are conducted at the request of law enforcement agencies. Many, though not all, of the traced firearms were used in the commission of a crime. According to the ATF report, 315 of the traced firearms were used in an assault, 188 in a robbery and 162 in a homicide. The top reported category was "family offense" (1,174) followed by "firearm under investigation" (1,143).

Most of the traced firearms were recovered in Baltimore (2,031), but traced firearms were recovered throughout the state, including from Silver Spring (253) and Frederick (189). Most of the traced firearms had been in circulation for three years or longer before being used in a crime, which is in line with state and national averages. Most of the people who had possession of the traced firearms were adults, with "over 50" representing the top category (1,230).

Pistols were the most traced firearms (3,058) followed by rifles (1,746). Machine guns, which are subject to significant regulation in Maryland, represented a small portion (17) of the traced guns.

According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, gun crime trace data is important to reducing illegal gun trafficking across state lines. Such data has shown that the majority of gun sellers never see a gun they have sold show up in a crime, while over half of the guns recovered in crimes were sold by just 1 percent of licensed firearm sellers. The data has also revealed that in places with the strictest gun laws, firearms used in crimes were more likely to have been purchased out of state.