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Gun Trafficking Up in States With Strict Gun Restrictions

The tan-and-black pistol sat inside a stack of tires at the end of a Boston alley, dropped there, police said, by a teenage gunman as he ran from the scene in 2020. Around the corner, 17-year-old Alissa King, a popular youth basketball star, lay on the pavement, dying from a gunshot wound to the neck. Five spent casings from the pistol littered the street around her. Five months earlier, a factory worker looking to make some extra cash had walked into a pawnshop next to a fried fish restaurant in Tuscaloosa, Al. He bought three pistols for a group of men trafficking guns up the East Coast. One was the Taurus G2C that would be used to shoot King. Amid the rise in homicides, traffickers are bringing a growing percentage of firearms from states with loose gun laws into states with tighter restrictions, found a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data going back a decade from 2020. In Massachusetts, with some of the nation’s strictest firearms laws, seventy nine percent of guns traced by police in criminal investigations came from out of state in 2020, compared with sixty three percent in 2015, according to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives data. California, which also has stringent firearms rules, saw a jump to forty five percent from thirty percent over the same period. As disparities between local gun laws widen, the surge in guns trafficked between states is fueled by schemes involving straw buyers. The crime is simple, but difficult to thwart: People who can clear a background check and are willing to do a quick job for a little money buy the guns for traffickers. The traffickers pay them and drive the weapons across state lines. They sell them to gang members, people barred from owning firearms and others who want to avoid background checks in places where it is harder to buy guns. Straw purchasers caught lying typically get probation. Traffickers convicted of dealing guns without a license or selling to prohibited people usually receive prison time, but often not more than a couple of years.


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