D & R Arms in Portsmouth, Va., is one of 1,600 gun dealers in Virginia, but no other in the state has had so many guns move so quickly from counter to crime scene in recent years, says the Washington Post in the second in a series on “crime guns.” The pattern is a red flag for law enforcement officials looking for potential gun trafficking. The speed with which a new gun becomes police evidence can indicate criminal intent by the buyer at the time of the sale.
Since 2004, almost 70 percent of the guns traced back to the store were seized within a year, some within days or weeks; the state rate is about 30 percent for the same time period. A “time to crime” of three years or less for a gun is a warning sign, say researchers working with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The number of guns sold by D & R has tripled since 2004, and the number traced from crime scenes has grown sevenfold. In recent years, the shop has sold guns to interstate traffickers in “straw purchases” who, when caught, told the ATF they were so obvious that store employees must have suspected something. The 2003 congressional blackout on federal gun-trace information has shielded D & R Arms from public scrutiny. The Post uncovered the surge in crime guns from the shop by analyzing a little-known database of seized weapons maintained by the Virginia State Police. By the end of last year, officers had recovered and traced more than 250 guns sold by D & R Arms, often in drug- and weapons-related crimes.