For police and federal agents trying to keep guns out of the hands of criminals in Washington, D.C., building a case against a firearms trafficker can mean months of work. Or it can come together quickly — as fast as a speeding motorcycle, reports the Washington Post. When a Virginia State trooper was looking for speeders on an interstate highway last August, a motorcycle blew by him at 99 mph. By the time the trooper caught up, the cyclist had abandoned his bike and fled on foot, leaving behind a black satchel. In the bag were five stolen pistols, four of them taken from a gun store three nights earlier.
Within blocks of the Supreme Court, which heard arguments yesterday on the city’s handgun ban, the market for illegal guns continues to thrive — and the fight against it, the war in the trenches, goes on. Investigators said many of the countless illegal guns in Washington were stolen in commercial and residential burglaries outside the city. Traffickers routinely pay people with clean backgrounds, known as straw purchasers, to buy firearms for them at gun stores. The business is lucrative. A cheap pistol (a “Saturday night special”) with a retail value of $100 might fetch better than twice that price on the streets; the markup on high-quality handguns can be greater. In many cases, drug dealers pay for guns with cocaine.