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Denver7 data analysis finds jump in firearm assaults, murders in major Colorado cities

Posted at 9:01 AM, Dec 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-07 11:01:11-05

DENVER — Murders and aggravated assaults with firearms have increased significantly in major Colorado cities. Denver7 in partnership with Newsy has compiled and aggregated data from the past few years about the use of firearms in crimes.

The data, which comes from Jacob Kalpan’s concatenated files: NIBRS data from 1991-2021, shows an 80% increase overall in murders involving guns in nine metro areas over the past three years.

Denver experienced a 74% increase in gun murders between 2019 and 2021, jumping from 46 to 80 in that timeframe.

Denver7 data analysis finds jump in firearm assaults, murders in major Colorado cities

Aurora’s firearm homicides doubled in that same timeframe, going from 16 to 32. Colorado Springs also saw an increase of 28%, going from 18 firearm murders in 2019 to 23 in 2021.

“We looked at the data in the state of Colorado, and [guns] were second as it comes to cause of death. Number one would be drug overdose. So, it's a problem that we really have to address in the state,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Arapahoe County.

The data Denver7 reviewed also showed an increase in aggravated assaults involving a firearm. According to the data:

  • Denver Police reported a 63% increase, jumping from 717 to 1,116
  • Colorado Springs Police reported a 23% increase, jumping from 474 to 583
  • Aurora Police reported a 117% increase, jumping from 393 to 852
  • Douglas County Sherriff’s Office reported a 40% increase, jumping from 45 to 63
  • Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office reported a 267% increase, jumping from 15 to 55
  • Lakewood Police reported a 900% increase, jumping from 15 to 150
  • Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office reported a 213% increase, jumping from 15 to 47

The data also shows an overall increase in robberies involving a firearm, including a 23% increase in Denver, a 29% increase in Colorado Springs and a 756% increase in Lakewood. Aurora, on the other hand, saw a 30% drop in gun-related robberies.

A Newsy analysis of Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms tracing data showed changes in gun time-to-crime, or the time between the first retail purchase of a gun to the time it was either used or suspected to have been used in a crime. Between 2019 and 2020, there was a 90 percent increase nationally in the number of recovered guns from crimes that had been bought less than seven months earlier.

In Colorado, that shorter window between the purchase of a firearm and the gun’s use in a crime showed a 69% increase between 2019 and 2020.

Despite that increase, the 2021 data shows the majority of guns being used in crimes committed in the state were purchased three or more years ago. The ATF time-to-crime data shows 609 firearms that were recovered from crimes were purchased within three months of the crime itself.

Another 479 were purchased between three and seven months of the crime, 524 were used in a crime within a year of being purchased, 815 were used in a crime within two years of being purchased and 397 were used within three years of being purchased. Meanwhile, 2,875 were purchased three or more years before being used in a crime.

“We're definitely seeing a surge in crime across our state,” said Fields.

Fields was one of 50 Democratic lawmakers from 31 states to be invited to Washington, D.C. this week to discuss potential state and federal gun reforms that could help curb the violence.

The aim of the Biden Administration with the meetings was to give state lawmakers a to-do list of gun reform goals, particularly after a strong showing from Democrats in state legislative races across the country.

However, Fields says there are some things she would like to see happen on a federal level as well, like following Colorado’s lead on everything from magazine capacity limits to increased background checks.

“We need to make sure that we understand the trauma that's caused by gun violence and how we need to help people navigate through the ashes and rubble that's caused,” she said.

Earlier this summer, President Biden signed an executive order taking 21 actions to try to reduce gun violence in the wake of the Uvalde mass shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead.

Congress also passed modest but meaningful gun legislation for the first time in decades.

Last week, the president once again pushed for Congress to pass a ban on semiautomatic gun reforms before the end of the year.

However, if action is not taken over the next few weeks, it is very unlikely that any changes will happen on a federal level for assault weapons since Republicans gained control of the U.S. House.

She would also like to see a greater push to understand the environmental factors that play into the increases in violence, from wages to access to affordable housing and education.

On the state level, Fields, who is a member of the newly formed gun violence prevention caucus, says there are several bills state lawmakers are considering for the upcoming session,

That includes a possible bill to close loopholes involving the state’s red flag law to require more enforcement as well as a reevaluation of the ability for people to purchase semiautomatic weapons.

“I believe that there should be a waiting period. You shouldn't be able to, at a very young age, get access to these weapons and then use it to harm other people without anybody thinking, ‘Maybe we should think twice before we allow that to happen,’ as well as with age limits,” Fields said.

However, Fields says the state has already taken significant steps over the past couple of legislative sessions to try to address gun violence, and she believes that work has made a difference.

“We don't talk about the crime that has been prevented because of the laws, we focus on the tragedies that have happened. But I believe that policies do work,” Fields said.

For now, it appears that the Biden Administration is banking on the states taking the wheel when it comes to gun reforms.