The Scourge of Illegal Guns

Last year, 10,177 people in the United States were killed by firearms, mostly in cities and urban areas.

The burden of gun violence has largely fallen to the big-city mayors, some of whom are taking steps to keep illegal firearms from entering their borders. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and Mayor Jerramiah Healy of Jersey City are among those who have moved most aggressively to combat gun trafficking even though their cities are in states with strict illegal gun laws.

It's difficult to obtain a permit to own a gun and even harder to legally carry a gun in New York and New Jersey, but that hasn't stopped the sale and use of illegal weapons. That's because guns laws are regulated by the individual states and weapons tend to enter the states with tough control laws from nearby states with weak laws.

The "straw man" method is the major way in which weapons move across state lines, law enforcement authorities say. Criminals purchase truckloads of firearms by enlisting a "straw man" -- someone without a criminal background to go to states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia to purchase firearms from gun shops. The criminals then simply take to the interstate highways to bring these guns into states like New Jersey and New York to mark them up and resell them illegally on the black market.

New York's Bloomberg has set up out-of-state sting operations, with investigators posing as straw men. He then sued the 27 gun dealers in five states whose illegal practices were traced to guns used in crimes committed in New York City. Fourteen of the dealers have settled cases with the city. Some gun dealers tried to counter sue but their cases were dismissed.

"The city is pleased that in this ruling the judge dismissed all of the claims by two plaintiffs and many of the claims of the remaining plaintiff. The city looks forward to its day in court when it will introduce facts enabling the remaining claims to be dismissed," Bloomberg said in a statement when the gun dealers' counter suits were dismissed.

Mayors' Gun Group

Bloomberg also started Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of 240 mayors across the country dedicated to keeping weapons from entering their cities.

The NRA has said it will continue to fight Bloomberg's efforts and those of the coalition. "Mayors across the country have come to realize the coalition is nothing more than a front group for gun control," said Chris W. Cox, the National Rifle Association's chief lobbyist. "Mayor Bloomberg has wasted taxpayer money jet-setting across the country, holding media events and spreading a load of propaganda to other mayors," Cox said in a statement.

Jersey City's Healy, who was also one of the original members of the Mayor's Coalition, helped reduce crime in his city by getting guns off the streets.

To fight what he calls the proliferation of illegal gun crimes, Healy used his experience as a former prosecutor, judge and defense attorney to enact local variances to fight the problem. During his first year as mayor, he started a gun buy back program, even kicking in the first $1,000.

Local businesses chipped in and almost $200,000 later he was able to get 897 guns off the streets in three weekends. He also instituted an 11 p.m. curfew for residents and businesses in parts of the city that had higher incidents of violent crime.

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