Here’s why lawmakers say state gun control doesn’t work

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U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has issued a three-part plan to shut off the flow of illegal guns into New York through the so-called  “Iron Pipeline.” (Photo: AP/Molly Riley)

Chicago is an example oft-used by gun rights advocates to illustrate the absurdity of gun laws. Despite its strict local gun ordinances, the city is inundated with violence, but many indicators point to the fact that a majority of the guns used in violent crimes within Chicago’s limits are brought in from neighboring Indiana, the New York Times reported.

The reporting isn’t revelatory by any means, but further illustrates the ineffectiveness of state law to curb gun violence when it isn’t backed by equally strict law in other states.

Gun control advocates call for a federal blanket law requiring background checks on all firearms purchases, including those between private individuals and at gun shows, some of which don’t require its exhibitors to be federally licensed or require background checks. Gun rights supporters evoke states’ rights and say that more private citizens should carry guns to reduce crime – more guns, less crime.     

As the Times points out, there are no retail gun stores in Chicago, but less than an hour south across the border with Indiana a straw purchaser can buy a firearm at a gun show from a private seller without having to undergo a background check.

Federal data shows an estimated 50,000 guns per year are known to have crossed state lines across the country, only to end up in criminal hands.

New York and New Jersey have some of the strictest gun laws in the country, yet those states continue to struggle with gun-related crime. Like Chicago, most of New York’s crime guns come from nearby states – most notably Georgia – through what officials call the “Iron Pipeline,” a network of highways branching off of Interstate 95. More than two-thirds of the crime guns in those states were traced back to purchases as far away as Florida, where gun laws are more lax.

“We’re trying to deal with it, but we have a spigot that’s wide open down there and we don’t have a national or local ability to shut that spigot down at the moment,” said NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton during a press conference, where he announced the indictment of six men charged in connection with an illegal gun sales operation.

But the South isn’t the only source of crime guns flooding their Northern neighbors. Many of the guns more recently recovered from crimes in New York and New Jersey were traced back to gun shows in Pennsylvania, a federal official told the Times.

It’s a trend seen across the country in states and cities with harsh gun regulations. The patchwork of gun laws have created a gray market – the source being states with lax gun laws – that can prove profitable for private sellers, regardless of that firearm’s destination, as the Times notes:

The economics are straightforward: A low-quality handgun that sells for $100 in an Atlanta store might sell for $500 or $600 in New York City, researchers say — and it can be transported cheaply. By contrast, the majority of guns used in crimes in Texas, Georgia and other states with more lenient gun laws are purchased in-state.

Online gun purchases can also prove a considerable headache for law enforcement. A majority of the crime guns recovered in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico are shipped by mail from Orlando, where a sizable Puerto Rican population resides.

Also an island, but further separated from the mainland is Hawaii,  where guns are less of an issue for police. The state has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country, but because it’s harder to divert guns into its island borders, it has the lowest rate of crime guns smuggled in. Just 128 guns linked to crime were brought into Hawaii in 2014, according to data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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