Buying guns for others, or “straw purchases” – are illegal. They can happen anywhere, but in Pennsylvania, they’re exceptionally easy, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Someone with a clean record can often buy a gun in a half hour. It takes weeks, even months, in New Jersey or New York. As a result, at least for supplying the Northeast, Pennsylvania rivals gun-friendly Southern states like Virginia or Georgia as a firearms exporter, say data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Each year, hundreds of guns seized from criminals in New York and New Jersey are traced back to Pennsylvania gun store. A review of dozens of court cases shows there is a seemingly endless supply of people willing to meet the demand for black-market guns. Most are not high-end smugglers but crack addicts, girlfriends of felons, or low-level hustlers looking to make a fast $100. Weak controls on gun sales are only part of the problem. In Pennsylvania and other states, police and prosecutors generally haven’t made straw buyers a priority. In Philadelphia, the police unit responsible for tracking guns is only now digging out of a 6,000-case backlog caused by inadequate staffing. The delays got so bad that judges sometimes dismissed cases because necessary lab work wasn’t finished in time. The unit is making about 10 arrests a month, only a small fraction of offenders.Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia, who have the advantage of stronger criminal penalties, likewise file only about 20 to 30 cases a year.