Virginia is for lovers, but it is also a place for gun lovers. The state known as the gun-running capital of the East Coast is once again at the top of the list of states that “export” firearms to New York.
Of the nearly 9,000 guns recovered and traced in New York last year, 407 originated in Virginia, according to a new reportreleased by the Department of Justice. It’s a minuscule decrease from 2010, when 415 guns recovered in New York guns were traced back to Virginia.
Pennsylvania was the second biggest exporter of firearms to New York with 368 guns, and North Carolina was third with 328. Just 1,595 guns recovered last year originated from within the state.
The new report comes during a spasm of gun violence in New York City; in the last two weeks alone a 4-year-old boy was killed and a 2-year-old girl wounded during shootings. Last Friday, a 14-year-old Bronx honors student was found dead by his father, the victim of what may have been a stray bullet.
While some see the violence as evidence that the NYPD should continue with its much-criticized stop-and-frisk practices, others see fault in the less restrictive gun laws in states like Virginia and Pennsylvania, which allow people to easily purchase guns there and traffic them to New York.
“The lesson is pretty simple: Gun laws matter. States with strong gun laws tend to receive [illegal] guns; states with weak gun laws tend to export [them],”said Mayor Bloomberg’s criminal justice coordinator, John Feinblatt, as reported in the New York Post.
New York City has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country and is No. 4 in the most recent state rankings by the BradyCampaign, a nonpartisan anti-gun violence group. Virginia ranks number 19, in part because it does not require a permit to purchase firearms or for gun owners to report lost or stolen guns.
The most popular guns recovered last year in New York were pistols followed by revolvers and rifles. Authorities found and traced nine machine guns, a 50 percent increase over the previous year.
And for the second year in a row, New Mexico emerged as a source of New York’s guns, with 48 traced to the southwestern state. Until 2010, New Mexico was not among the top 15 exporters of guns to New York tracked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The bureau states that not all firearms used in crime in New York were traced, and not all of the firearms traced are used in crime. However, at least 79 traced weapons in 2011 were responsible for homicides in the state and 191 were involved in robberies.
The recent report is sure to keep Virginia in Bloomberg’s target, as it has been for years. Bloomberg has given tens thousands of dollars in campaign donations to pro-gun control legislators in Virginia, arguing that the state’s policies have a direct impact on public safety in New York.
In 2007, the mayor sued 27 out-of-state gun dealers including several in Virginia for selling guns to undercover “straw-buyers.” Two Virginia gun dealers responded by creating a “Bloomberg Gun GiveAway” in which customers who made purchases over $100 would be eligible for a free gun. Bloomberg called the dealers “sick people.”
Most recently, Bloomberg criticized the repeal of a law in Virginia that limited handgun buyers to purchasing one pistol a month and predicted that it would lead to more bloodshed in New York.
“Some Americans view smarter, tougher gun measures as a hopeless crusade. But political environments change, especially when strong leaders build coalitions and carve new paths through seemingly settled territory,” wrote Bloomberg in an editorial last week. “There are conservative, pro-gun rights members of Congress who understand that more can be done to keep guns away from dangerous people.”