South Carolina is a gold mine for illegal gun trafficking
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) – The Palmetto state has been a gold mine for criminals. Those who are involved in the illegal gun trade are snatching up guns from South Carolina and taking them to states with tougher gun laws.
Earl Woodham, the local spokesperson for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, says South Carolina ranks sixth in the country for firearms trafficking.
"We want to stop the gun traffickers. It makes the legal gun owners look bad," he said.
Woodham says if a gun is not traced it may never be known and never found. But if it's traced and comes back to South Carolina and there's a very short time-to-crime, it's a prime indicator of trafficking.
"It's an ongoing issue that we continue to put our resources and man power into addressing," he said.
New York City has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, which is one reason why 85 percent of guns used in crimes there were sold in other states.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg took direct aim at Summerville pawnshop owner Larry Mickalis in 2006, one of a dozen gun dealers Bloomberg sued for illegal gun sales. Mickalis pleaded guilty to the illegal sale of guns and was given probation.
In October 2012, the New York Police Department had a major bust, where more than a 100 guns were seized. According to a press release from the District Attorney's office, nearly a dozen of the seized guns came from South Carolina.
Because cases are still pending, where those guns originated in South Carolina cannot be released.
So how are gun traffickers getting the guns across state lines? The ATF says there are countless ways guns are getting into the hands of criminals. The agency says everything from corrupt gun dealers to gun shows are putting guns in criminals' hands.
Some of the guns are trafficked through what's known as a straw purchase, which is where someone who cannot legally posses a firearm has someone who can go into a licensed dealer and make the purchase.
"You just look at them. If they're acting a little sketchy or nervous, (your) radar goes up," Thane Hollington, the owner of Guns & Gold Trading Post said.
Last fall, a driver slammed an SUV through his North Charleston store. The thieves got away with $10,000 worth of guns.
"We will not see those guns again," he said.
Woodham says the smash and grab is a new way that gun traffickers are getting the guns. While South Carolina has had an illegal gun problem for quite some time, it's not getting any better.
"A gun is not a commodity like drugs where it will be used up and be gone it's to be there and be used over and over again for violent crimes," Woodham said.
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