Straw-purchasing–legal buyers turning guns over to ineligible owners–is the main way that illegal guns get on the streets of Philadelphia, reports the Philadelphia Daily News. Most guns used in homicides and shootings were originally straw-bought – including the gun that killed Faheem Thomas-Childs, 10, last year outside his school. Cracking down on illegal street-gun sales is a huge challenge for law enforcement.
It’s easy to buy a gun, hand it over to a criminal and later say it was lost or stolen. In some states, including Rhode Island, Michigan, Ohio, and Massachusetts, it is mandatory to report a stolen gun. In Pennsylvania no such law exists. Even if the straw purchaser is caught, the punishment is usually nothing more than a slap on the wrist. “Straw-purchasing is our biggest problem in the city of Philadelphia,” said Tom Stankiewicz of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Critics say Pennsylvania needs tougher laws to limit the number of guns people can buy and to make people more responsible for their gun purchases. “You could spend a day going to different parts of Philadelphia and get 10 guns,” said Diane Edbril of CeaseFire Pennsylvania. “A lot of illegal guns get into the market this way.”