WASHINGTON - April 7 - A candidate for Federal public office in New York State yesterday suggested that there is no link between reckless gun dealers and crime guns on the streets of New York. His remarks, Jim Brady said this morning, "show a level of cluelessness that is remarkable given his desire to serve in an important public position."
"John Spencer must have bumped his head," said Brady, the former press secretary to President Ronald Reagan who was wounded in the assassination attempt on the President 25 years ago last week. "The man should think before he speaks. He's not running for dog catcher -- he wants to be a United States Senator."
Spencer, who is running for the United States Senate, said "I don't buy into the equation that going after the sellers or merchants or anything else has anything to do with reducing crime, and if someone can show me the statistics where it works, I'd be very interested in seeing it, but they don't exist."
Here are some of the statistics:
"Virtually all new firearms used in crime first pass through the legitimate distribution system of federal licensed firearms dealers." (Gun Dealer Licensing and Illegal Gun Trafficking, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), 1997.)
Almost 60 percent of the guns traced to crime by ATF originated with only about one percent of the nation's gun dealers. (ATF, Commerce in Firearms in the United States, 2000.)
In federal gun trafficking investigations, corrupt gun dealers account for the largest number of trafficked guns. (ATF, Following the Gun: Enforcing Federal Laws Against Firearms Traffickers (June 2000))
About eighty-five percent of crime guns in New York City originate outside New York State, with most coming from Southern states with weak gun laws. (ATF, Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative, Crime Gun Trace Reports, 2000.)
Or how about the statistic of 190 handguns sold by one dealer to a gun trafficker from New York? Or 87 handguns -- the number of guns that the gun dealer transferred to the gun trafficker in just one sale? In a six month period of time in 2000, Ohio gun dealer Charlie Brown sold 190 Hi-Point handguns, including 87 in one sale, to notorious gunrunner James Nigel Bostic, who then trafficked them to the streets of Buffalo where they were used in crimes, including attempted homicide.
Brown made the sales to Bostic and his girlfriend, who often acted as Bostic's straw purchaser, even when it should have been obvious that the guns were headed for the streets. This is not the only time Brown has made sales to traffickers -- in addition to the guns recovered in Buffalo, 630 guns sold by Brown were recovered in connection with crime in New York City.
"We have a great deal of additional data on this issue on our website, if the candidate would like to educate himself," Brady added.
Last week, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence announced a landmark multi-year effort to stop the trafficking of guns from licensed gun dealers into the hands of criminals. Starting at the grassroots and working with its Million Mom March chapters and state-based allied groups, the organization will assemble a nationwide coalition of mayors to fight illegal guns, engage in sustained public education and media outreach, mobilize the support of law enforcement and ensure that the issue of illegal guns becomes a key political issue at the local, state and federal levels.
The group is also launching a new project -- Gun Industry Watch -- to systematically monitor the gun industry and expose the practices of gun manufacturers and sellers that ensure the continued and profitable supply of guns to the illegal market. In recent years, expert analysts and industry whistleblowers have drawn important links between industry sales and distribution practices and the rapid movement of guns from licensed dealers to criminal hands.
The organization is working for three key reforms at the state and Federal level, which will shut down sources of illegal guns without interfering with legal gun ownership:
Strengthen law enforcement tools to crack down on corrupt gun dealers. Congress needs to repeal the irrational constraints that have reduced ATF's effectiveness in enforcing the law against dealers like Trader Sports who feed the illegal market. And state legislatures and local governments need to give state and local law enforcement new tools to combat gun trafficking.
Extend Brady Background checks to all gun sales. Since the enactment of the Brady Bill over 10 years ago, more than 1.3 million felons and other prohibited purchasers have been blocked from buying guns from licensed gun dealers. Brady background checks must now be extended to all gun sales, wherever they occur. Our national policy should be no background check, no sale, no excuses.
Stop large volume gun sales that supply traffickers. It is possible in most states for "straw purchasers" and traffickers to buy unlimited numbers of guns to sell to the illegal market. This must stop.
"Guns don't fall from the sky into the hands of criminals. The crime gun market is fed by a small, identifiable group of reckless gun dealers. Yes, we must severely punish criminals who use guns. But we must also stop the flood of illegal guns at its source -- the gun dealers who put profit ahead of public safety," said Dennis Henigan, legal director of the Brady Campaign.