The gun was a black Hi Point C9 semi-automatic, cheaper than an iPod and small enough to cram into a hip pocket. The Newark Star Ledger said it was made in Ohio, shipped to a Florida gun shop and landed in the hands of a jittery 17-year-old from Newark named Wali Wolfe. Trying to fend off potential robbers, he killed a cousin accidentally.
The weapon’s 1,100-mile passage from gun store to killing scene was the work of a small ring of smugglers who helped feed Newark’s lucrative underground arms market. Exploiting Florida’s lenient gun laws, they bought dozens of high-powered pistols to resell on the streets of New Jersey, home to some of the country’s toughest firearm restrictions. In addition to Wolfe’s gun, at least nine others turned up at Newark crime scenes. One was used to pistol-whip a worker in a bodega robbery; others were found on suspected drug dealers. The smuggling operation shows what local authorities face as they battle a resurgence in gun violence. Murders last year in Newark rose to the highest level since 1990. Nonfatal shootings rose for the fourth straight year. Police recovered nearly 900 illegal guns in 2006, a record.