December 5, 2008 in Nation/World

Gun laws, murder rates linked

Study finds states with lax control lead in handgun fatalities, cop killings
By Cheryl W. Thompson Washington Post
 

WASHINGTON – 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 Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Democratic Mayor Thomas Menino.

“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 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.

•States requiring gun buyers to get a purchase permit have a lower export rate.

•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.


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