Report Links State Gun Laws To Rates of Slayings, Trafficking

By Cheryl W. Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 5, 2008

States with lax gun laws had higher rates of handgun killings, fatal shootings of police officers, and sales of weapons that were used in crimes in other states, according to a study underwritten by a group of more than 300 U.S. mayors.

The report, which was obtained by The Washington Post, found that 10 states, including Virginia, supplied 57 percent of the guns that were recovered in crimes in other states in 2007. The 38-page report is based on an analysis of annual crime-gun data compiled by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The analysis tracks guns used in crimes back to the retailers that first sold them.

Virginia ranked sixth last year as a supplier of out-of-state crime guns per 100,000 inhabitants. West Virginia topped the list, according to the study by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition headed by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino (D). Maryland ranked 28th.

"It's only a small group of states responsible for interstate gun trafficking," said John Feinblatt, criminal justice coordinator for New York City. "Not only do their guns victimize people from out of state, they have higher gun-violence rates themselves."

The District, which prohibited handgun ownership for 32 years until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ban unconstitutional this year, exported no known crime guns in 2007, the report says. There is one licensed dealer in the city but no gun stores. The report also shows that 975 crime guns were recovered in the District from other jurisdictions last year, a per capita amount that far exceeds any state's.

The report examined how guns travel from the legal market to the black market and into criminals' hands, as well as the relationship between a state's gun laws and the probability that it will be a source of guns recovered in out-of-state crimes.

"Many law enforcement officials have long maintained that a pattern of illegal gun trafficking exists between states," the report says. "This report confirms these accounts, suggesting there is an interstate illegal gun market driven, at least in part, by the relative ease of access to guns in particular states."

The study, which will be released this month, found:

· The 10 states with the highest crime-gun export rates had nearly 60 percent more gun homicides than the 10 states with the lowest rates. The high-export states also had nearly three times as many fatal shootings of police officers.

· States requiring background checks for handgun sales at gun shows have an export rate nearly half the national average. None of the 10 highest export states, including Virginia, requires the checks, according to the report. Maryland does.

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