Report: Recovered guns often traced to Virginia

By Allison Klein
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON, D.C. Law enforcement authorities traced more than 10,000 guns recovered in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia last year and nearly half came from Virginia, according to federal data released Monday.

Virginia also was among the top sources of guns recovered by authorities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina, the data show. In New York, more recovered guns came from Virginia than from any other outside state - roughly one of 11 traced.

"Somebody coined I-95 'the iron pipeline,'  " said Mike Campbell, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which released the report Monday. "There's a lot of traffic moving up and down 95."

The ATF gathered information from police agencies across the country and compiled state-by-state reports detailing types of offenses and where firearms originated. The ATF traces nearly 300,000 guns a year to determine where they were sold to customers.

Most of the guns traced by the ATF came from the states where they were recovered, the agency said. The vast majority of guns tied to Virginia were also recovered there. But Virginia was the second-leading source for many other states along the East Coast.

Gun control advocates have complained for years that the state has fewer restrictions than other jurisdictions do. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that illegal gun sales in Virginia contribute to crime in his city.

The ATF report does not provide breakdowns indicating how many of the traced guns were purchased legally. Authorities said the overwhelming majority of guns traced were used in crimes.

J. Tucker Martin, a spokesman for the Virginia attorney general's office, said he could not comment on the report without reading it. But he said the office is satisfied with the state's laws in general.

"Virginia has a very effective law enforcement system," he said.

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group, said he was surprised that Virginia's guns were turning up in significant numbers in other states - 530 in New York, 301 in North Carolina, 140 in New Jersey, 110 in Pennsylvania, and so on.

"We have stricter laws than a lot of these states where the guns are showing up," Van Cleave said.

"In Virginia, we require two forms of identification, which some other states don't require."

Monday's report marked the first time in recent years that the ATF has released such statistics. As a result, officials said, it was difficult to say whether last year's tallies fit a larger pattern.

In Virginia, authorities traced about 5,100 guns recovered there last year.

Of those, 4,039 came from the state, and 72 were from Maryland.

In Maryland, authorities traced about 4,100 guns. Of those, about 2,300 came from the state and 448 from Virginia.

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