Was that gun used in a crime? Now you can find out

On Sunday in New Orleans, Laderika Smith, 28, returned from the store to find her five-year-old daughter bloodied and lying on the bedroom floor with a gunshot wound to her head. The girl soon died. Her mother has been charged with Relative Cruelty to a Juvenile. She has not yet entered a plea.

“It is all too common,” Doctor Gary A. Smith, president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, told MSNBC. “Children are curious. They watch TV cartoons and a make-believe world,” he added. When kids see guns, “they don’t recognize the danger.”

Smith’s daughter fatally shot herself with a .38 revolver that her mother kept in the home, as Smith admitted to New Orleans police. For decades, a .38 revolver was the firearm most commonly used in crimes, according to ATF studies including a July 2000 report, which is the last time that the ATF issued any comprehensive report. Instead, for more than 12 years– since the first inauguration of President George W. Bush in 2001–the ATF has provided little or no such national data to the public.

“Why was it stopped for over 10 years?” ATF Acting Deputy Chief of Public Affairs Donna Sellers told MSNBC. “I cannot really answer why a decision was made to stop publishing that information,” she added. “The decision was made this year to increase transparency and provide the public with more thorough information on crime guns.”

On June 19, the ATF published its findings for Firearms Trace Data for 2012. Data for previous years posted on the ATF website’s statistics page include no more than very general information for each state along with the District of Columbia and U.S. Virgin Islands, making in difficult to discern national trends of the types of firearms used in crimes, or where they were bought.

The data for 2012 includes nationally aggregated summaries including “Firearms Types” and “Top Calibers” of weapons “Recovered and Traced” in crimes, along with data on where the weapons used in crimes were purchased and where they ended up, and how long they have been in circulation.

“Tracing crime guns provides critical information that assists domestic and international law enforcement,” Sellers told MSNBC.

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