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Tracing Data Establish That A Few Stores Sell Most Crime Weapons

About a dozen federally licensed firearms dealers in Philadelphia have done brisk business meeting the demand from legal buyers in one of the nation’s violent cities. They are also a major source of weapons used illegally, found a new report that offers a rare glimpse into the link between legal gun sales and criminal activity, the New York Times reports.

From 2014 to 2020, six small retailers sold more than 11,000 weapons that were later recovered in criminal investigations or confiscated from owners who had obtained them illegally, concludes an examination of Pennsylvania firearms tracing data by the gun control group Brady.

A small percentage of gun stores — 1.2 percent of the state’s licensed dealers — accounted for 57 percent of firearms that ended up in the hands of criminals through illegal resale or direct purchases by “straw” buyers who turned them over to people barred from owning guns.

That finding was in line with tracing data obtained by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which found that a small number of retailers in Georgia, Indiana, Florida and Michigan were responsible for a high proportion of so-called crime guns traced by law enforcement.

“There is a wide spectrum of behavior we’re dealing with when it comes to these stores,” said Brady's T. Christian Heyne. “Some of them need support, some need more scrutiny, and some of them just need to be shut down.”

Heyne said most dealers “sell guns safely and often exceed the letter of the law.” The purpose of releasing the report was to pressure federal, state and local officials to focus on countering “the bad actions of a few.”

The House panel used data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firerarms and Explosives to show that “a small number of gun dealers are disproportionately responsible for flooding our streets with guns that are used in crimes,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), committee chair.

Last year, President Biden commissioned a large-scale national gun trafficking report that will include analyses of gun makers and dealers, the first of its kind in two decades.


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