In a nationwide crackdown on illegal weapons, authorities have broken up a gun-trafficking ring that included Ohio college students buying firearms for a New Jersey criminal gang. Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday called the case an example of the success of “Project Safe Neighborhoods,” which has resulted in a 62 percent increase in the number of defendants charged with federal gun crimes since 2000.
The Washington Post says Ashcroft’s announcement comes as Congress considers legislation that would require the FBI to destroy background check records of gun buyers 24 hours after a purchase is approved. Such records are now held for 90 days.
Gun control advocates sy the kind of straw purchase cases highlighted by Ashcroft, in which legal gun buyers purchase weapons for those prohibited from doing so, would be much harder to pursue if FBI records are destroyed within 24 hours. “You would be losing a key source of information,” said Matt Nosanchuk of the Violence Policy Center, which supports stricter gun control. “If you destroy all the records of approved purchases within 24 hours, the universe of potential straw purchasers disappears.”
Ashcroft, a National Rifle Association member who proposed the 24-hour time limit in 2001, said, “I believe that these kinds of prosecutions could move forward absent a prolonged maintenance of the record,” Ashcroft said. The legislation would prohibit the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from requiring dealers to keep track of inventories. The measure, part of a massive spending bill, has passed the House and awaits consideration by the Senate in January.
Records unsealed yesterday charge that 76 guns were illegally transferred to members of the Double II Bloods gang in East Orange, N.J., by a group of students at Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio. The students purchased the guns from a Xenia gun shop.Fourteen people, including alleged gang members, Wilberforce students, and the store owner, were charged.