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How to change Virginia's reputation for gun trafficking

Assault weapons and hand guns for sale.
Seth Perlman
/
AP
Assault weapons and hand guns for sale.

Virginia is the capital of gun trafficking in America. That's the conclusion of data compiled by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms showing Virginia has the shortest time to crime ratio. That’s the amount of time between the last known legal purchase of a firearm and its use in the commission of a crime.

Phillip Van Cleve at the Virginia Citizens Defense League says the solution to this problem is better law enforcement rather than new laws to prevent gun violence. "Put them behind bars. Get them off the streets," Van Cleave said. "If you find somebody trafficking guns, lock them up for a long time so they can't keep doing it. That's all you can do."

Rob Wilcox at Everytown for Gun Safety notes the ATF data is from 2017 to 2021, which means most of the period was before Virginia passed sweeping laws cracking down on gun violence and before President Biden started taking action at the federal level.

"It takes time and effort to implement gun laws and crack down on rogue gun dealers," Wilcox said. "But the laws that were passed by Virginia will save lives, and the actions being taken by President Biden and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will identify and shut down rogue gun dealers."

He says because of those changes perhaps when the next round of ATF data is released, Virginia might no longer be leading the nation for gun trafficking.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.