A Maryland gun store called Realco sold 86 firearms linked to homicides over the past 18 years, far outstripping the total from any other store in the Washington, D.C., region, a Washington Post investigation found. Over that period, police have recovered more than 2,500 guns sold by the shop, including over 300 used in non-fatal shootings, assaults, and robberies. The Post compiled a databases of more than 35,000 gun traces by mining unpublicized state databases and local police evidence logs.
The Post found that a small percentage of gun stores sells most weapons recovered by police in crimes – confirming a finding of studies before Congress removed federal gun-tracing data from public view in 2003. Most sales are legal, but an unknown number involve persons who buy for those who cannot, including convicted felons, in a process known as a “straw purchase.” Such sales are illegal for the buyer and the store, if it knowingly allows a straw purchase. Cases are hard to prove, and officials rarely prosecute stores, deterred by bureaucratic hurdles, political pressure, and laws that make convictions difficult.