In response to mass shootings in the last few years, more than 20 states have new laws restricting how people can buy and carry guns. The New York Times reports that the effect of those laws has been significantly diluted by a thriving underground market for firearms brought from states with few restrictions. Some 50,000 guns are diverted to criminals across state lines every year, and many more cross state lines undetected. In New York and New Jersey, which have some of the nation’s strictest laws, more than two-thirds of guns tied to criminal activity were traced to out-of-state purchases last year. Many were brought in via the “Iron Pipeline,” made up of Interstate 95 and its tributary highways, from Southern states with weaker gun laws, like Virginia, Georgia and Florida.
A handgun used in the killing of two Brooklyn officers last year was traced to a pawnshop near Atlanta. A revolver used in a fatal shooting of a Queens officer in May was traced to another Georgia pawnshop. a handgun used to kill an officer in East Harlem last month was traced to South Carolina. “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 New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton. A low-quality handgun that sells for $100 in an Atlanta store might sell for $500 or $600 in New York City, 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. The Times examined gun trafficking patterns by analyzing nine years of data compiled by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and an index of state gun laws developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.