The burglar known as “white boy” cut a hole in the roof of a Virginia gun store last July and took 40 weapons. Within a month, some of those guns began showing up on the streets of Baltimore, 100 miles away, says the Baltimore Sun. “Most of those guns on the street are stolen from somewhere,” said Sgt. Richard Willard of Baltimore’s police gun task force. “These guys need an outlet to sell their guns.” Almost half of the guns used in Maryland crimes in 2007 came from outside the state — a fact experts attribute to Maryland’s tough gun control laws. That makes Maryland one of the largest importers of guns that are recovered by police at crime scenes, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Jens Ludwig, a University of Chicago professor who studies illegal gun markets, thinks policymakers need to focus on enforcement rather than legislation. “The state borders are porous,” Ludwig said. “It is hard to regulate your way out of it. You are an island of tight gun control in an ocean of lax laws.” U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein says, “There is not one big warehouse in Tennessee that we can shut down and solve the problem. They are coming from a lot of small sources.” The people who buy and sell guns on the illicit market tend to be sophisticated and hard to catch, said Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. His work has shown that there is broad awareness among criminals that police do ballistic traces on weapons, which makes them reluctant to purchase a used gun from anyone they don’t trust. Webster has been advising Baltimore to focus on suppressing demand for weapons. “The most cost-effective way of reducing gun violence is to focus on illegal possession of guns and making that a very risky thing to do,” he said.