A record number of weapons are making their way to Minneapolis through an underground market that’s flooding streets with illegal firearms — and increasing violent crime, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Minneapolis police and federal authorities are taking new steps to thwart the trafficking, but it is so shadowy it’s hard to stop. Gangs and drugs are driving gun violence. “All we can do is go out there and attack their leaders and straw buyers — one by one by one every single day,” said Lt. Mike Carlson, leader of an 11-member team of city officers and federal agents known as the Violent Offenders Task Force (VOTF).
The task force works from a huge chart showing newly recovered guns, gang arrests, and drug seizures that are put into a computer program that creates links among them and provides crucial intelligence on how the illegal gun trade operates. That is a big reason why the task force has been able to get more than 50 federal weapons and drug indictments handed down since the task force was formed. A confidential 2005 report by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms draws a portrait of the growing illegal marketplace for guns in the Twin Cities. It describes how from January 2004 to last August, authorities traced nearly 1,200 firearms in Minneapolis involved in criminal investigations. Nearly 200 guns recovered during Minneapolis crime investigations in the past 18 months were sold by at least seven legitimate gun retailers in the Twin Cities.