Nearly 43 percent of guns used to commit crimes in Cleveland were first purchased at three federally licensed gun dealers, all in the suburbs, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath can do only so much about it. Local efforts have been strangled by a state concealed-weapons law that took authority to regulate firearms away from cities. In Ohio, gun dealers are regulated solely by federal law. McGrath works with federal agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives but can’t launch his own investigations of dealers or straw purchasers. The agency can’t tell him which city residents have bought multiple guns in a short time.
For now, McGrath is limited to programs like a gun buyback last month when 423 working guns were turned in. “Within three years, one of those handguns would have been used in a tragedy,” McGrath said. “I know it.” McGrath wants to see guns come with paperwork as they change hands, so cops know not only who sold them but also who bought them. Ohio, unlike other states, hasn’t passed its own laws to control the sale of guns. Local police cannot interfere with the purchase of guns. They can make arrests only when guns are used in crimes. Seventeen 17 states – including Alabama, Pennsylvania and Georgia – have given themselves more control over gun dealers. Those states license and inspect dealers – and revoke the licenses if needed. That is a powerful tool in quelling violence caused by the illegal gun trade, said Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy. Webster said many states rely on the ATF, erroneously believing the agency has the manpower to regulate and investigate dealers who aren’t following the law.