Eight people from three different states have been arrested for trafficking guns bought legally in states like Georgia and Pennsylvania and selling them illegally to an undercover NYPD detective. The flow of guns from states with weak gun laws to those with stricter ones demonstrates the dire need to fight America’s gun epidemic at the federal level.
Prosecutors have filed a 541-count indictment after an investigation in which an undercover officer was sold over 100 firearms, including shotguns and assault rifles, for a total of more than $130,000. The ringleader of the operation, Michael Bassier, 31, of Brooklyn, was caught on a wiretap announcing his plans: “I’ve got two Mac 10’s on me, an SK assault rifle and four handguns and I’m walking through New York.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson explained that this type of incident is not uncommon. The vast majority of New York City gun crime involves out-of-state weapons.
“We have states that seem to not care about where these guns end up. As long as criminals can easily get access to guns, we will continue to have carnage.”
NYPD Chief of Department Jim O’Neill seconded Thompson’s comments: “Year after year, illegal guns continue to flow into our city from states that don’t have proper safeguards in place.” O’Neill stated that 90% of guns found at New York City crime scenes come from another state.
New York City has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, requiring all guns, including rifles and shotguns, to be registered to permitted owners, and carry permits are highly restricted. However, these attempts to curb the plague of gun violence in New York are not entirely effective, as guns can easily be transported from other states where laws are more lax. The perpetrators in this investigation carried guns into the city on one of the many discount buses that operate to Chinatown.
Out-of-state weapons were used in the murder of police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos last December, as well as the killing of officer Brian Moore last May. Nine guns stolen from a Georgia pawnshop in 2011 have found their way to New York crime scenes.
This pattern of crime shows that gun control is not something that can be completely left up to individual states to decide. If we are to have any chance at addressing this nation’s gun problem, it must be attacked at a federal level. “As a country, we must demand a different approach,” said D.A. Thompson. “We need help at the federal level.”
Thompson supports legislation sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) that will crack down on gun trafficking. Gillibrand says that by introducing harsher penalties for trafficking, “We can stop the flow of illegal guns and save innocent lives.”
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.