The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns has a released a new report chronicling how guns used in crimes move within the United States. The report, The Movement of Illegal Guns in America, examines the movement of illegal firearms across states by comparing state sale laws, how frequently illegal guns are recovered after being used in crimes and where those guns originated.
One of the arguments guns supporters often repeat is that states with strict sale laws experience high crime rates where guns are used. One of the conclusions of this report utilizes trace data to show that guns are imported into those states from states where sale laws are lax. For instance, in 2007, Ohio (which has lax laws) exported 1,813 guns to other states that were used in crimes and recovered.
This data was captured using trace data provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Trace data works by tracking the ownership of a firearm back to its origin. This is accomplished when a gun is recovered after a crime. The law enforcement agency contacts the ATF with the gun's serial number and make. The ATF identifies the wholesaler, then the retailer who in turn identifies the first purchaser. Law enforcement can then trace the gun from purchaser to crime. The problem is, not all trace data is available to law enforcement. The dreaded Tiahrt Amendemnt restricts the use of trace data and only allows a small portion of it to be used in studies like this. Before its implementation, this kind of data could pinpoint the exact firearms dealer who sold guns that were more likely to be used in crimes.
Given the extraordinary amount of crimes committed with guns, it is astounding that groups like the National Rifle Association argue against using trace data to identify where illegal guns originate. Even more astounding is the fact that these groups support the legislation that allows guns to be sold at gun shows without a background check. In fact, Ohio is one of those states where purchasing a firearms in a gun shop requires a background check to see if the purchaser has a criminal record or a history of mental illness but purchasing that same weapon at a gun show requires nothing more than completing a Federal firearms form.
One of the conclusions within the report is that if states adopt five laws they will export less guns which will be used in crimes. Those laws are requiring background checks for all handgun sales at gun shows, requiring a permit for all handgun purchases, reuiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns, allowing local control of gun laws and mandating or permitting gun dealer inspections. Ohio only requires the reporting of lost or stolen firearms.
We live in an area, Northeast Ohio, that has tremendous problems with gun crime. Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Youngstown are plagued with people who possess guns illegaly. Yet, we allow groups like the NRA to bully the state legislature into keeping effective gun control laws off the books. This report now makes their most repeated argument invalid. States with tight gun control laws still experience gun crime because guns are imported from states with lax gun laws. New Yorkers experience gun crime with weapons originally sold in West Virginia. This isn't rocket science. Criminals understand how to move guns from a place they may be easily purchased to a place where the illicit need is great but they are harder to purchase. This report clearly shows that the time has come for states with lax gun laws to protect their neighbors from the criminals taking advantage of them.
It should be noted that the following area mayors are members of the coalition: Mayor Jay Williams from Youngstown, Mayor Don Plusquellicfrom Akron, Mayor Frank Jackson from Cleveland, Mayor Michael Coleman of Columbus, Mayor Bill Cervenik of Euclid and many others from Northeast Ohio. The full list can be found here.