A new analysis of 53,000 crime guns by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is a reminder of the limitations of state firearm restrictions and of the public’s ability to obtain detailed information about the flow of guns in the U.S., The Trace reports. The report says three out of four firearms recovered by police in New York state were bought somewhere else, most often, Virginia, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Georgia. It shows, by zip code, where crime guns were recovered. It does not say what stores sold the guns, and whether particular dealers or individuals were linked to a disproportionate numbers of recovered firearms, which could indicate straw purchasers or “bad apple” gun dealers. Nor does the report note which guns were obtained through theft.
These details could be used to guide investigations, prosecutions, and lawsuits against traffickers and dealers that provide an outsized share of crime guns. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives refuses to release the data, citing restrictions imposed in 2005 by Congress. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), proposed measures that restrict the bureau from disclosing detailed trace information to anyone but the law enforcement agencies that request the traces. Schneiderman said the report shows how a patchwork of state gun laws isn’t sufficient to stem the flow of illegal guns. He called on Congress to pass universal background check legislation and on states to require individuals to get a permit to own a gun.