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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Florida a top source of guns linked to crimes in other states


2,000 Florida guns last year were linked to crimes committed around the country, and experts say they likely came from the cars and homes of law-abiding Floridians. In 2010, law-enforcement officers around the country traced 2,251 crime guns to Florida, one of the states with the most guns traced in out-of-state crimes. It follows Georgia's 2,568 guns and Texas' 2,301, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Related Top states for crime guns Broward crime rises in first half of 2011 Video: Crimes caught on camera Photos Close calls: Crime artist's sketches Topics Personal Weapon Control Gun Control Interior Policy See more topics » That's because Florida has a huge number of gun owners, and burglars find the weapons when breaking into their homes and cars, authorities said. Video: Mother of pit bull attack victim discusses son's condition "In almost any burglary to a residence, a gun will turn up," Boynton Beach Police Sgt. Sedrick Aiken said. "There's a lot of stolen guns out there." In fact, South Florida last year had the most reported stolen guns in the state. That's 2,310 guns reported stolen in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, according to state records. The number does not include guns reported stolen and then recovered. Typical was the recent arrest of two suspects in Boca Raton, accused of taking $3,750 worth of hunting guns in the burglary of a home in Jupiter. The owner of the guns told police he kept them in a gun safe that was broken into. Richard Sasso, 23, and a 17-year-old boy were arrested in connection with the September burglary. The Sun Sentinel is not naming the juvenile because of his age. He told police they traded the guns for marijuana. It's unclear where the guns ended up. Stolen guns often are sold to criminals, who may end up crossing state lines, experts said. Florida guns also end up in the wrong hands in other states when people come to Florida because gun laws here are more relaxed, Aiken said. Unlike New York, for example, Florida does not require gun buyers to get a permit and allows people convicted of violent misdemeanors to own a gun. Florida also prohibits municipalities from enacting their own gun-control measures. New York is where most of Florida's crime guns — 358 — ended up last year. Not all guns used in crimes are traced through ATF, and not all guns traced are directly used in crimes. They could be guns found at a crime scene or in the possession of a suspected criminal. Marion Hammer, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association in Florida, said Florida's laws have nothing to do with guns turning up in out-of-state crimes. Many state laws regulate who can sell a gun and to whom a gun can be sold, she said. "If anything, it's lax law enforcement," Hammer said. "I don't know if it's ATF or [the Florida Department of Law Enforcement] or who isn't enforcing it." In December 2009, Washington, D.C., police and FBI agents arrested dozens of alleged gun traffickers and seized 123 guns in an undercover sting, according to The Washington Post. Authorities posed as gun traffickers interested in buying illegal guns to sell to Mexican cartels. In the end, 44 people were arrested in the sting, and the trafficked weapons were traced to Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina and Kentucky. Federal authorities blamed the out-of-state guns for much of the violent crime in the capital. Gary Kleck, professor of criminology and criminal justice at Florida State University, said large-scale, interstate gun trafficking is rare, and often overblown by politicians who want to blame crime on outside factors. Rarely do criminals travel to Florida because they think it's easier to buy guns down South, he said. "This is not about gun trafficking. It's interstate migration," said Kleck, who has interviewed convicted felons and studied the movement of crime guns across state lines. The most common scenario is when someone buys a gun legally in Florida, moves out of state and has his or her weapon stolen in a home burglary. Or a burglar in Florida steals a homeowner's guns and sells it to a someone in another state. "The chances of a burglar coming across a gun here is that much greater than in other states," he said.


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