A look at NIBRS data: America's weapons of choice

NIBRS data
2016 NIBRS data was released this week. The data is available directly here on the FBI’s website. NOte that NIBRS is different than UCR. 2016 UCR data was released about a month ago. A lot of agencies are making the migration of UCR to NIBRS. We took a stab defining the difference between UCR and NIBRS a couple of years ago.  Check it out in a blog post here.

Of the reported NIBRS offenses, 22.7% were crimes against persons, 14.8% were crimes against society, and 62.5% were crimes against property. More than half (52.4%) of the victims knew their offenders, but did not have a familial relationship to them. Nearly one quarter (24.3%) of the victims were related to their offenders.

There’s an array of information included in the reports. You should check it out if you have time.

For the purpose of this post, we took a deeper look at the data on offenses related to weapons.

Overview of weapons data
Each crime incident that involves a weapon is broken out into an 'offenses involving weapons' category. Law enforcement agencies may report up to three types of weapons/force involved in each offense via NIBRS reporting. Because law enforcement can report up to three types of weapons/force involved for each offense (up to ten) in an incident, some offenses may have been counted more than once in order to attribute them to each of the weapon types associated with them. All definitions and technical specifications can be found here.

America's weapon of choice (it’s not a gun)
The most used weapon in crimes committed in the US is personal weapons i.e. your hands, fist, feet, arms, teeth, etc.

This makes sense for two reasons. One, body parts are very easily accessible weapons. And two, the reporting agency can report up to three types of weapons/force involved for each offense. So, say you get into a bar fight and the assailant smashes a beer bottle over your head, then punches you in the face, leaves and returns with a gun and shoots you. The bottle is counted as a weapon as well as their fist and their handgun.

Most committed crime involving a weapon
Assault offenses were the most committed crime with a weapon. Assault offenses include crimes like aggravated assault, simple assault, and intimidation. Remember that bar fight example? It would most likely be categorized as an assault offense.

The weapons most likely to be used in a robbery are firearms and person weapons. Weapons used in kidnappings are pretty even across the board.

The most used weapons in homicides are firearms.

Firearm breakdown

There is a bit of ambiguity on how 'firearm' is different than the other types of firearms listed. We are assuming 'firearm' is used when no other type of firearm is specified.

SpotCrime keeps track of shootings (read more about our shooting icon here). Just under 182k incidents seem small considering we recorded over 150 shootings in Chicago alone for October, but NIBRS/UCR data ends up being different than the CAD/RMS data SpotCrime uses. This means the data on SpotCrime is more up-to-date, but keep in mind the information is preliminary and is subject to change.

The firearm of choice in 2016 was a handgun. Automatic firearms, excluding automatic handguns, were used the least, probably because of laws associated with owning automatic weapons, cost of obtaining these weapons, and size. Automatic handguns were third most popular firearm used. Automatic firearms are defined as 'any firearm that shoots, or is designed to shoot, more than one shot at a time by a single pull of the trigger without manual reloading'.

Firearm breakdown by offense

Weapons law violations are the most committed offense. A weapons law violation means 'a violation of laws or ordinances prohibiting the manufacture, sale, purchase, transportation, possession, concealment or use of firearms, cutting instruments, explosives, incendiary devices or other deadly weapons'. Typically there is some sort of arrest involved. And it’s a charge that can be added on to a number of other crimes. For example, a felon that robs a store with a gun will get tagged with aggravated robbery and a weapons law violation for illegally possessing a handgun.

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