Crime guns’ origins vary

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This summer has seen plenty of news devoted to gun violence, from the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado, to the high number of fatal shootings in the City of Rochester.

Underlying each incident is a question: Where do these guns come from? In the Aurora movie theater incident, the alleged shooter purchased the guns legally (see this New York Times article for information about his arsenal.)

In Rochester, it’s a different picture. Some of the guns used in crimes — the offenses are not limited to murders and include robberies, assaults, drug possession or sale, and simple possession — fall into a legal gray area. In 2009, Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Public Safety Initiatives issued a report focusing on Rochester’s illegal guns and their sources.

The report said that about 15 percent of guns seized by the Rochester Police Department were reported stolen. The 2009 report didn’t provide a specific count of the seized guns, but data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Tobacco says that 878 firearms were recovered in Rochester in 2011.

The 2009 RIT report says that many of the guns used in Rochester crimes are transferred from a legal owner to an “illegal possessor”; one example would be giving a handgun to someone who doesn’t have a pistol permit. And police report that the guns are commonly exchanged for drugs, says the report.

The report also says that most guns used in local crimes come from the local area and are not brought in from other states.

Recent data from the ATF back up that conclusion. The ATF’s 2011 statistics show that police across New York recovered 8,793 crime guns last year. The majority of them were initially sold in New York.

In an Associated Press article, Citizens Crime Commission of New York President Richard Aborn says that there’s an upstate-downstate split in crime gun origins. Most of the guns used in upstate crimes come from within the state, while in New York City the guns often come from states along the Eastern Seaboard.

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