The gun shop owner asked no questions when Perry Bruce walked into his store in 1997. The customer had purchased another Saturday Night Special there a week earlier, says the Philadelphia Daily News. Now he bought a .44-caliber revolver, admitting later that he was high on drugs. The dealer had been told by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that a gun Bruce had bought at the store months earlier had been found at a crime scene. But none of the red flags were enough to stop another sale. Bruce walked sold the pistol later that day on the street for $400. A seven-year-old boy later used it to kill another seven-year-old.
The Daily News says that the boy’s killing spotlights how a small number of gun dealers – who are supposed to act as the industry’s gatekeepers – have become the main source of guns for criminals. Federal authorities have done nothing to punish the gun store in the case of the seven-year-olds. Experts say the best way to stop the flow of guns is to force dealers to carefully screen buyers. But dealers have no incentive to refuse sales. The gun dealer connection is critical in Philadelphia, which is awash with guns and plagued with daily shootings. this year, there have been 176 homicides – more than 80 percent of them by gun, police said. Philadelphia’s gun homicide rate is one of the highest in the country. In the first of two articles, the Daily News investigates gun sales.