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The Trajectory of Federal Gun Crimes

Federal gun prosecutions have been a significant part of the federal
docket for decades. In this Article, we explore for the first time the evolution
of federal gun crimes. They cover conduct ranging from gun distribution and
possession of particular weapons such as machine guns to use by drug
traffickers and individual possession of firearms by felons. Second, we
describe how in practice gun charges have adapted to criminal law priorities
of Congress and federal prosecutors over time. More recently, they became
prominent in connection with immigration prosecutions, while in the 1980s,
drug gangs were the priority. During this time, gun cases provided vehicles
for testing the reach of federal jurisdiction, the use of federal crimes as
sentencing enhancements, and the boundaries between federal, state, and
local enforcement.