The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives opened a Regional Crime Gun Center last summer in Seattle, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The center is a clearinghouse for weapons that city and state police recover at crime scenes, or simply find in the streets. Its main purpose is to identify trafficking, and to determine how suspected criminals get their weapons. The center says that Washington State has become a leading source for guns being used in crimes in Western Canada, which has far more restrictive gun laws than the U.S. “If you purchase a gun here in Washington for $100, you could sell that for $300 in Canada — that’s U.S. not Canadian (dollars),” said agent Doug Krough.
Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said his department has tracked every crime gun for the past five years. About 950 guns were confiscated by Seattle police last year. Recent changes in federal law prevent ATF from publicly sharing specific data about crime guns used, where they were bought, or in what geographical areas. “The problem is that the tracing center can’t tell the people who live in those communities about the crime guns it’s tracing,” said Dennis Henigan of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Because not all trace guns actually were used in crimes — such as a rifle that someone lost while hunting — the data can be misconstrued to paint law-abiding gun retailers as disreputable, said Andrew Arulanandam, an NRA spokesman. “Our position has always been that trace information ought to be made available for law enforcement and for prosecuting entities. There’s no conceivable reason for civilians, politicians or interest groups to have access to that data,” he said.