NYC mayor attributes black market guns to Carolinas

NYC mayor attributes black market guns to Carolinas

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by BORA KIM / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @BoraKimWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on August 20, 2013 at 7:48 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 20 at 8:02 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina laws are again at the forefront of the gun debate, following the arrest of several individuals from the Carolinas on gun trafficking charges.

Gun advocates are firing back, after criticism of the state’s gun laws.

On Monday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the indictment of 19 individuals for their role in two separate gun smuggling operations.

More than half of those arrested had local ties to North and South Carolina.

The mayor's team blasted the state's existing laws, saying what is in place makes it easier for criminals to obtain firearms, which are sold illegally in New York City’s black market.

New York Special Narcotics Prosecutor spoke about the "simplicity of business model" and the complete "indifference of gun suppliers" in the consequences of their actions to citizens there.

"It was all about money. It was all about the fact that they could buy guns in a state where restrictions were loose and resell them on the black market in a state at a very high price, because we have such tough gun restrictions in New York State."

Larry Hyatt, owner of the country's largest independent gun shop, attributes New York City's burgeoning sales of illegal guns as an "unintended consequence" to the state’s tough laws.

"It is so lucrative for a criminal to get an illegal gun, by theft or straw purchase, and get it to New York. And they can make good profit, and that's what they are doing," said Hyatt.

Hyatt believes New York's close proximity to the Carolinas, in this case, a bus ride away, has more to do the illegal guns from this state than existing laws.

"They are blaming us but they really don't have a solution. The solution is for us to give up our gun rights," he said.

John Feinblatt, chief advisor to Mayor Bloomberg and criminal justice coordinator, laid out areas where gun laws can be toughened.

"South Carolina has no criminal penalties for stray purchases, and in North Carolina, no penalties for guns purchased with false information," he said.

"Neither North or South Carolina require lost or stolen guns to be reported to law enforcement."

Feinblatt says when a gun used in a crime turns up, gun owners, or "straw" buyers, can claim it was stolen because there are no laws requiring citizens to report loss to police.

Paul Valone, head of Grass Roots of North Carolina, says legislation has been written to address this, but with no resolve.

"The version we would have seen in North Carolina would have criminalized lawful gun owners not knowing that a gun had been stolen from them," he said.

When it comes to punishing those who supply false information to obtain a gun, Valone says there are federal laws in place, despite the lack of enforcement.

"The federal government is already failing to prosecute people who unlawfully attempt to purchase firearms," he said.

New York officials say ninety-percent of the guns used during a crime, come from out-of-state. North and South Carolina are among the largest suppliers of black-market guns in the city, according to information released by the Mayor’s Office.

Valone fired back.

"If guns in New York are such a problem, where they are tightly restricted, why are they not a problem in North Carolina where they are not."

Feinblatt says citizens in the Carolinas are indeed getting hurt as a result of the "weak" gun laws.

He says Charlotte and Columbia have higher murder rates than New York City, partly because cities are prohibited in enacting local gun laws.

Valone disagrees.

"We passed a conceal handgun law in 1994. We've had 400,000 people apply for permits since then. Meanwhile during the same period, the rate of violent crime has dropped," he said.

"So it seems to us if Michael Bloomberg was really serious about reducing violence, instead saying criminals were the only ones with guns, he would actually loosen NY gun laws."

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