CHICAGO - March 16 - Yesterday's announcement by police in Chicago that a gun trafficker under federal investigation since last summer allegedly killed a 14-year-old child in a blaze of assault weapon fire is further proof of the need for local, state and Federal officials to take serious steps to combat illegal gun trafficking.
Carail Weeks purchased a firearm last July that was recovered as the gun used in an armed robbery eight days later. Federal law enforcement authorities traced the gun to Weeks, according to the Chicago Tribune, who bought it from a dealership in Indianapolis notorious for selling guns later recovered in crime.
Had federal gun laws been stronger, Weeks may not have been able to traffic that initial gun, or been able to purchase multiple guns at a nearby gun store also notorious for selling crime guns. Certainly Weeks, a man who had been arrested numerous times and who was using false identification, should not have been able to purchase the Romanian WASR-10 assault rifle and high-capacity magazine used to kill 14-year-old Starkesia Reed in Chicago on March 3rd.
Authorities know of at least two gun dealerships where Weeks purchased firearms: Don's Guns in Indianapolis and Brandi's in Camby, Indiana. Between them, Don's and Brandi's have sold thousands of guns that were later traced to crimes.
"Another child has died who didn't need to die," said Jim Brady, the former press secretary to President Reagan who was wounded in an assassination attempt on the President 25 years ago this month. "We need to strangle the illegal gun trade by strengthening the hand of federal agents investigating these gun traffickers, stopping people from buying multiple firearms, and padlocking the doors of the worst gun dealers in America."
There are a number of policies that could be enacted at the federal, state and local level to stop illegal gun trafficking and reduce gun violence. Unfortunately, at the Federal level, policy makers have actually taken steps that have made the situation not only worse but also harder to detect. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration and Congress have recently implemented a number of measures that only help corrupt gun sellers, such as requiring the destruction of background check records and shielding corrupt gun sellers from scrutiny in the civil courts.
Among the steps that should be taken:
-- Allow the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to inspect federal firearms licensees more than once a year. Under current law, the ATF is limited to one routine record keeping inspection of a federal firearms licensee within a 12-month period.
-- Allow ATF to fine gun sellers or suspend their federal firearm licenses if they commit a crime. ATF generally may not impose a fine or license suspension on gun dealers who violate the law. Instead, ATF may attempt to revoke a dealer's license, but this gives ATF limited enforcement flexibility by requiring an all-or-nothing approach - ATF can either begin a difficult revocation proceeding or levy no administrative penalty at all. One ATF Director testified, " 1/8W 3/8hen we attempt to revoke 1/8a dealer's 3/8 license, his remedies are such that it may go on for 2 or 3 years..."
-- Prohibit bulk sales of handguns. Currently, federal law does not limit the number of firearms that a person can purchase in a single transaction. So gun traffickers can buy dozens of guns at a time. And gun traffickers usually deal in handguns. Though the gun lobby has worked to block more recent data, an analysis of 1999 data showed that handguns comprised 78 percent of all traced crime guns. Congress should pass legislation stopping large volume handgun sales so that gun traffickers cannot amass the supply of guns they need to make their illegal sales worthwhile.
-- Change the reporting requirement for "multiple sales," which are a significant indicator of gun trafficking, so that gun sellers must report "multiple sales" of two or more handguns within 30 days, instead of the current five business day period. Current federal law requires dealers to report to ATF any "multiple sales" of two or more handguns that occur within five consecutive business days. This allows gun traffickers to buy a handgun every sixth business day and still acquire a significant number of handguns for illegal resale without any "multiple sale" notification to law enforcement.
Gun industry extremists, meanwhile, have been blocking the Illinois legislature from banning AK-47s and their clones - the type of gun used in the Reed homicide. Earlier this week, Illinois gun industry lobbyist Richard Pearson said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was "delusional" for wanting to stiffen gun laws, and the gun lobby has targeted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for defeat in November for his support of the assault weapons ban proposal.
"It is past time for the state to act to get these weapons off the streets, and Illinois should set an example for Indiana to follow," said Jennifer Bishop, Illinois State Director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
As the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence, the Brady Campaign, working with its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, is devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.