ATF study reveals where criminals in Baltimore are getting their guns

A new study from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (which I still maintain would be a far better name for a convenience store) has produced some interesting gun crime data for the state of Maryland. Rather than looking at the numbers of victims and perpetrators, this research traces the guns used in various crimes and where and when the criminals acquired them. Police in Maryland asked the agency to trace more than 8,600 firearms from 2017, with most (though not all) having been used in crimes.

Maryland (and Baltimore in particular) is known for having some of the more strict gun laws in the country, but notably lax penalties for using guns during the commission of crimes. This is particularly true of first offenses. So finding out where the guns are coming from is a key piece of data. What the ATF discovered was that guns were indeed coming from all over the country, but the majority of them actually originated right in Maryland. (Baltimore Sun)

Thousands of guns recovered in Maryland last year traced back to 49 states, but the largest portion of firearms was bought locally…

ATF agents were able to determine where nearly 5,900 of the firearms were sold, according to a new analysis by the ATF, which publishes the findings of its gun traces each year.

Some 47 percent were bought in Maryland, the ATF found. Virginia ranked second and supplied about 15 percent of the guns. Pennsylvania came third with nearly 7 percent.

Some firearms were bought as far away as Texas (101 guns) and California (46 guns).

The “conventional wisdom” among gun control advocates in states with tough gun laws is that their crime is so high because of guns flowing in from states with looser restrictions. That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case here. Pennsylvania has far less restrictive gun laws and Maryland shares its entire northern border with the Keystone State, yet only 7% of the guns traced came from there.

We also know that the vast majority of guns used in crimes, particularly when looking at the type of gang violence plaguing Baltimore, are not legally owned and registered to the criminals. So how are the criminals getting hold of them? Another intriguing bit of data from the study reveals that the average amount of time from when a gun is purchased to when it was used in either a crime or other event causing the police to examine it, was twelve years. That’s a long time for a gun to be hanging around, but it provides plenty of time for it to be lost, stolen or illegally transferred by the owner.

There are already laws in place making it illegal to personally transfer a firearm to a person not eligible to receive it, either through the black market or strawman purchases. New laws aren’t going to stop that from happening. The reality hinted at by this data is that criminals who are willing to commit gun crimes are also willing to violate gun control laws when obtaining their firearms. I know… I was totally shocked too. (/sarc)

The ATF claims that they conduct roughly half a million gun traces for police departments around the country every year. Additional compilation of that data might lead to a more informed discussion of gun control in this country. Of course, then you’d have to get the media to actually publicize the results.

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