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Report Links State Gun Laws To Rates of Slayings, Trafficking

· States requiring gun buyers to get a purchase permit have a lower export rate. Gun owners in Maryland and Virginia are not required to have purchase permits.

· States requiring gun owners to report their weapons lost or stolen to law enforcement authorities export crime guns at less than one-third the rate of states that do not mandate reporting. Seven states have such a requirement; Maryland and Virginia do not.

In Virginia, 2,261 guns were sold that were used in crimes in other states in 2007, while 1,100 crime guns were identified as having been brought into the state. Maryland exported 445 crime guns that year, and 1,943 were identified as having been imported.

The study is the first of its kind and comes after the mayors and 30 law enforcement organizations successfully lobbied Congress last year to release portions of the ATF data. Public access to the reports had been restricted since the 2003 passage of the "Tiahrt amendment," authored by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) and drafted with help from the National Rifle Association. Tiahrt said at the time that he was "fulfilling the needs of my friends who are firearms dealers."

President-elect Barack Obama called for the repeal of the law while he campaigned for office, and he co-sponsored a bill to change it.

In an interview yesterday, Bloomberg said "the Tiahrt amendment was a shameless effort to protect the most irresponsible gun dealers by blindfolding policymakers and the public about illegal gun trafficking."

Gun rights advocates say the law protects gun dealers from persecution and does not prevent authorities from investigating gun crimes.

Nearly all guns recovered in crimes are initially sold legally, the report says. Many that wind up on the black market were stolen from homes, stores or vehicles. Others were sold without background checks, at gun shows by unlicensed dealers or by licensed dealers to "straw purchasers," who purchase guns for those prohibited from buying them.

ATF is allowed under federal law to inspect federally licensed gun dealers once a year, but agency officials said inspections are done at an actual rate of about one every 17 years.

"The federal laws are written to the advantage of the gun dealers," said Daniel Webster, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore. "It's difficult for [officials] to act decisively to suspend or revoke a license."

To increase oversight of gun dealers, nearly two dozen states, including Maryland and Virginia, as well as the District, allow or require state inspections. In those that do not, crime guns are exported at a rate 50 percent higher than in states that allow or mandate inspections.

"Leaving it up to federal law and ATF is insufficient to really hold gun dealers accountable," Webster said.


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