Although New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, a steady stream of firearms are imported each year from nearby states with weaker regulations, a report from the state's attorney general Eric Schneiderman found.
Many of those guns are later used in crimes.
The report, released Tuesday, found that 74 percent of the guns recovered by police for which origins could be traced came from outside the state. Nearly half of those came from the six states known as the "Iron Pipeline," which are known for lax gun regulations and sit along the I-95 corridor leading to New York.
"New York is at the mercy of states more committed to protecting firearms commerce than protecting the citizenry from the violence associated with illegal guns," the report said. "In short, New York cannot fully defend itself by itself."
The "Iron Pipeline" states — Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida — plus Ohio, account for 70 percent of guns that were "most likely trafficked" that turned up in New York, according to the report. Because trafficking is so difficult to ascertain, Schneiderman's report ranks guns recovered in crimes on their likelihood of being trafficked based on the amount of time between a gun’s purchase and recovery, the location the gun was recovered in, and whether the possessor of the recovered gun is different than the purchaser.
Most of those states don't require permits for handgun purchases, and most don't require background checks for private sales. By comparison, the report found that other nearby states that do have strict gun laws account for far less of the trafficked guns that wind up in New York. New Jersey, for example, requires permits and background checks for handguns and long guns, and accounts for less than 1% of guns trafficked to New York.
"From New York's vantage point, the correlation between state and local laws and the source of trafficked guns is undeniable," the report said.
New York City demonstrates this correlation most clearly, achieving the highest percentage of out-of-state guns found in the state — 87% — juxtaposed with its permitting requirements that are considered some of the most rigorous in the country.
The report proposed several federal reforms meant to halt the flow of illegal guns into New York, including requiring universal background checks, and closing the "gun show loophole," which allows buyers to be exempt from background checks in private sales. It also recommended that other states implement reforms, such as licensing requirements for all handgun purchases.
The report also called for gun trafficking to be made a federal crime — a proposal that New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has vowed to reintroduce to Congress next session — and for all states to require licenses for handguns.
"Gun laws do make it harder for criminals to get guns where those laws are in effect," the report said. "But it is no doubt true that existing state gun laws are made far less effective when there are guns readily available to criminals in a nearby state with weaker laws."
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