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(HAYWARD) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer and the California Million Mom March Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence today kicked off a national grassroots campaign to disrupt illegal gun trafficking by endorsing a package of state legislation and announcing their opposition to two federal bills. The event, which was one of 15 held across the country today, took place in front of the Hayward Police Department and also included Assemblyman Johan Klehs (D-San Leandro).
Hayward was the home of notorious gun trafficker, Sean Twomey, who used a fake firearms dealer license in 1997 to obtain thousands of guns from out of state, which he then sold illegally to criminals and kids all over the Bay Area. The national effort is part of a campaign to raise public awareness about the menace illegal gun traffickers, like Twomey, pose to society.
“We cannot rely on the federal government to enact responsible legislation that will prevent criminals from possessing and using guns,” Lockyer said. “In order to create safer streets and neighborhoods in California, we must act now to stop illegal gun trafficking at its source. That’s why I’m sponsoring commonsense legislation that would identify and root out those who provide guns to criminals and other prohibited persons.”
“Gun traffickers build illegal distribution networks and sell guns on street corners to thugs, across kitchen tables to drug dealers and on playgrounds to violent teens. These guns end up being used to threaten, wound, maim and kill in our communities. We are here to support three bills now in the California legislature that will give law enforcement officials the tools they need to reduce illegal gun trafficking,” said Griffin Dix of the California Million Mom March Chapters of the Brady Campaign.
Tamara Dukes, Director of Prevention for Youth ALIVE!, added, “When two-thirds of Oakland’s 6th graders surveyed say that they could get a gun in 24 hours, it is abundantly clear that an illegal gun market preying on our youth is alive and well. We at Youth ALIVE! encourage local law enforcement throughout California to implement comprehensive gun tracing as an effective, inexpensive tool to hold illegal gun traffickers accountable. Gun tracing led us to Sean Twomey; if it is done throughout California it can lead us to other gun traffickers.”
“Youth and gang violence is a neighborhood cancer; it recurs. We take care of individuals injured and believe the job is done. However, the odds are that the same individual will come back injured again. We are a revolving door. If they don't come back re-injured, they are oftentimes in jail, serving sentences for being on the trigger end this time, of an illegal gun. Stopping trafficking and ending this gun violence is the only way we will recognize the cure,” said Rochelle Dicker, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery at UCSF and Director of the Wraparound Project serving individuals injured by youth and gang violence.
Illegal gun trafficking is a serious problem in California and throughout the United States. Under California law, specified persons are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, and each year in California more than 3,000 prohibited persons are denied the ability to purchase a gun from a firearms dealer. Unfortunately, a highly efficient and continuous business practice of gun trafficking has evolved which moves guns from legal manufacture and sale to prohibited buyers, who include convicted felons, underage gang members, the mentally ill, and persons with active restraining orders. Trafficking of guns from the legal to the illegal market is often accomplished through a technique called “straw purchasing.” Criminal entrepreneurs (gun traffickers) utilize stand-ins who can pass state and federal background checks to buy guns from local dealers and then sell them on the street locally and out of state. According to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the majority of crime guns come from a small number of gun dealers. In a recent report, the ATF released gun trace data showing that 57 percent of guns used in crimes were traced back to sale by just 1 percent of gun dealers.
All of the participants in today’s event expressed support for two Lockyer sponsored bills designed to combat illegal gun trafficking in California. Assembly Bill 2728, authored by Klehs, would require gun dealers to successfully pass compliance inspections by Lockyer’s Department of Justice (DOJ) prior to opening for business. AB 2521, authored by Assemblymember Dave Jones (D-Sacramento), would subject firearms dealers to greater DOJ oversight in order to reduce trafficking from out-of-state vendors.
Speakers also expressed support for AB 352, authored by Assemblymember Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), which would require microstamping of semiautomatic handguns and give police a new tool to identify the purchaser of guns later trafficked to criminals and/or used in crimes.
Lockyer and Million Mom March also urged the United States congress to defeat two pending measures that would make it more difficult for law enforcement to prevent illegal gun violence. Specifically, the Million Mom March opposes H.R. 5005, which would deny police access to the ATF crime gun trace data that is used to track and prevent illegal gun trafficking. It also opposes H.R. 5092, which would gut ATF’s power to revoke the federal firearms licenses of gun dealers who violate federal laws and who also sell a disproportionate number of guns that end up in the hands of traffickers and criminals. See http://www.bradycenter.org/pdf/front/HR-5092-letter.pdf
The participants at today’s event emphasized that access to crime-gun information is essential to law enforcement efforts to combat illegal gun trafficking. Unfortunately, new federal laws are making it more difficult for law enforcement and the public to obtain critical gun trafficking data. For instance, ATF recently released data showing that 97 gun dealers had 11,840 guns “disappear” from their shops in fiscal year 2005. However, under new restrictions passed by Congress, ATF was not able to release the names of those dealers.