The bulk of guns recovered by police in Buffalo and across New York come from outside the state, according to a new report utilizing federal gun tracking data released Tuesday by State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office.
Nearly three in four traceable guns connected to crimes that were recovered in the state from 2010 through 2015 made their way into New York from Ohio and states along the "Iron Pipeline," according to the report based on data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The analysis led Schneiderman to conclude the state’s gun laws are working, but states with weaker laws than New York continue to supply guns to criminals here.
“We’re being undermined at every turn by states who prioritize gun commerce,” Schneiderman said during an announcement Tuesday.
In Buffalo and Niagara Falls, nearly six in 10 guns recovered by law enforcement came from outside the state. Of 424 “likely-trafficked” guns in Erie and Niagara counties, 19 percent came from Ohio, 18 percent came from Georgia and 17 percent from Pennsylvania.
There were 5,255 guns recovered by police in Erie and Niagara counties over the six-year period, a number that represented 10 percent of all guns recovered by law enforcement in New York over that time, according to the report.
The attorney general’s report, “Target on Trafficking: Analysis of New York Crime Guns,” also included an online tool that allows the public to view data by zip code, county and region.
The attorney general’s office created a scoring system that attempts to identify firearms that were “likely trafficked.” To develop an individual gun’s score on that scale, the most important information considered was the time between the date of purchase and the date the gun was recovered by police. They also considered whether the person who possessed the gun was different from the purchaser and whether the gun was originally purchased outside the state.
The report, citing difficulty in compiling full histories of individual firearms, concluded 6,162 guns were “likely-trafficked” into the state over the six-year period.
In the Buffalo area, 94 percent of “likely-trafficked” firearms were handguns, according to the report.
The ATF’s data utilized in the analysis has limits. The report looked at 52,915 guns recovered by police. The agency couldn’t find a state of origin for 12 percent of the firearms. In order to trace a gun, the ATF must have the make, model and serial number of the gun.
In 2005, The Buffalo News published a four-part series that focused on an Ohio gun trafficking ring that brought guns to the area that were sold on Buffalo’s streets.
Following that series, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, along with Buffalo attorney Terrence M. Connors, filed a lawsuit against a gun manufacturer relating to the 2003 shooting of then-16-year-old Daniel “Bud” Williams.
That case, which the gun company unsuccessfully tried to get thrown out of court, is still in the discovery phase.
Schneiderman said his office’s findings lend weight to a number of recommendations he said would combat gun violence across the country. Those recommendations include a federal mandate requiring all states do background checks for potential gun buyers in private transactions and at gun shows, as well as for the enactment of a comprehensive federal gun trafficking law. Some state-level recommendations from Schneiderman included the passage of a "gun kingpin bill" that would ramp up sentences for someone convicted of selling more than 20 illegal guns, much like what's done to those guilty of selling large amounts of narcotics.
In a written statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office also looked toward action on the federal level.
“Washington needs to act, pass reasonable gun safety laws, and stem this bloodshed once and for all – and this report is one more reason why," Cuomo said in the statement. "New York proudly passed the strongest gun laws in the nation, but when someone can hop into a car, buy a gun just over the border and bring it back to commit a crime, Congress has failed in its prime responsibility to protect its citizens."