Local News

Highway, Legal Systems Contribute to N.C. Gun Trafficking

Posted November 13, 2007

North Carolina ranks No. 7 in the nation for illegal gun trafficking. Last year, more than 11,000 illegal firearms were recovered, many used in violent crimes.

But why does the state carry that dubious distinction?

A deadly drive by shooting on Raleigh's Beauty Avenue netted 15 arrests – all of them gang members, or affiliated with a gang.

"Violent crime and gangs and guns are synonymous," said Earl Woodham, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Woodham said a gun is a gang member's courage.

"It, all of a sudden, ratchets up the testosterone of the gang member," he said. "A gang member with his bare hands succumbs real quick to an armed police officer."

Woodham said drying up the source for guns is one way to sap a gang's strength.

But the state's system of highways, such as Interstate 95 – dubbed the "Iron Pipeline" – makes it one of the top 10 sources for illegal guns in the United States.

"Easy access to these interstates has not helped one bit in deterring illegal firearms being trafficked to other states,"

The illegal gun trade in North Carolina is driven by supply and demand and aided by existing laws. Woodham said a person caught selling guns would face one-fifth the jail time than someone caught selling drugs.

"The risk is a lot less," he said. "The reward is a lot higher to traffic fire arms out of North Carolina for just as much, or more, profit."

Tracing gun sales can be a key piece of evidence at trial, but the rules for licensing weapons only go so far.

"If we want to know who had that gun after the first purchaser, we have to physically go out and investigate it just like you would for a homicide or bank robbery, because that's where the paper trail ends."

What doesn't end is the stream of guns bought, sold, found or stolen in North Carolina. Nor does the work of investigators, who operate within a system they consider frustrating.

Some experts, such as Woodham, say the answer is not to ban all guns – just respect them and the law.

Woodham said most licensed dealers abide by the law. It's the ones who don't, and the people who seize the opportunity to buy illegal weapons that put North Carolina high on the list.

28 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • ThePunisher Nov 14, 6:59 p.m.

    Molon Labe!

  • elcid89 Nov 14, 3:53 p.m.

    "If you ban weapons, you are only hurting the people the have them legally. Someone who is going to break the law will commit a crime to get a gun and use it. If only criminals have weoapons, they win. The police will only react to after the fact. Police will investigate your death. I guess we can go back to throwing rocks."

    Not if you ban their manufacture and then round them all up & destroy them ...

  • nofear Nov 14, 3:47 p.m.

    If you ban weapons, you are only hurting the people the have them legally. Someone who is going to break the law will commit a crime to get a gun and use it. If only criminals have weoapons, they win. The police will only react to after the fact. Police will investigate your death. I guess we can go back to throwing rocks.

  • elcid89 Nov 14, 3:31 p.m.

    "Well, I'm no attorney, but it seems to me to be massively disingenuous to selectivly interpret the "we" and "the people" phrases as either individual or collective right statements, based on where it falls in the Constitution, either for free speech, the 2nd Amendment or whatever the argument du jour is and which side of it those doing the arguing come down on."

    How so? "We the People" appears solely in the preamble, which constructs and guarantees no rights at all, but merely explains the rationale for having executed the Constitution in the first place.

  • havnfun Nov 14, 3:17 p.m.

    Well, I'm no attorney, but it seems to me to be massively disingenuous to selectivly interpret the "we" and "the people" phrases as either individual or collective right statements, based on where it falls in the Constitution, either for free speech, the 2nd Amendment or whatever the argument du jour is and which side of it those doing the arguing come down on.

    My position on this? Having a handgun saved me from a mugging one night here in Raleigh a few years ago (two of them vs one of me), and just a few days ago, my girlfriend frightened off a group of home invading thieves at about 11pm by shouting out "I have a gun and get out of the house now!" She faced down at least 3 bad guys with just a threat, I am awfully proud of her and her performance under pressure

  • elcid89 Nov 14, 2:39 p.m.

    You should bear in mind a few things as well, Steve.

    1) Presser v. Illinois - SCOTUS ruled that the 2nd Amendment is not binding on the states or localities. SCOTUS has never reconsidered that decision. As such, the 2nd Amendment is a peculiarity solely of federal province. So, we have a situation where it's binding solely on federal law. States may, and have, regulate or ban guns entirely without contravening the 2nd Amendment.

    2) Miller grants no unequivocal right to bear arms. SCOTUS has not revisited this since 1939, your 91 cases cite notwithstanding. (I'd like to see a list of those, please.)

    3) Heller remains a limited venue, in that DC is not a state, and whatever decision is rendered will affect federal law while failing to overturn or clarify Presser. That SCOTUS has not done so, despite ample opportunities in that regard, indicates to me that any decision will remain limited in scope to the specific arguments and sidestep setting broad policy interpretations.

  • elcid89 Nov 14, 2:18 p.m.

    "Article 17 of the 1776 document: That the people have a right to bear arms, for the defence of the State; and, as standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power."

    Here, again, we see the qualifying language "for the defence of the state." No unilateral, unequivocal grant is made. A qualified grant is assured in order to achieve a limited purpose. You are mistakenly assuming that the qualified grant can be expanded to unilateral status. This is not the case.

    Interestingly, every US Circuit except DC agrees with this interpretation.

  • elcid89 Nov 14, 2:15 p.m.

    "You know very well that Miller in 1939 guaranteed the right on an individual to own arms and that 91 subsequent SCOTUS decisions did nothing to alter that position. You also know that SCOTUS refused to hear the DC case yesterday which held that the DC law banning handguns was unconstutional."

    How do you get that interpretation? SCOTUS specifically reversed the US District Court position that NFA violated the Second Amendment, and further held that guns may be regulated. Miller also specifically addressed and applied the "militia" qualification of the Second Amendment in its ruling. Interestingly, SCOTUS remanded the case to the District for clarification, since there were no claimants left to continue the proceeding.

    Also, where are you seeing that SCOTUS denied certiorari? They haven't taken action on Heller yet.

  • Semprini Nov 14, 8:58 a.m.

    Right, here we go. It is less than a year until the next presidential election, so lets start talking about bad guns. Gun owners have been safe since Bush took office. This will not be the case if someone from the big government party becomes president.

  • dlb800 Nov 14, 8:07 a.m.

    While I do consider myself a conservative, I kind of agree with
    legalizing drugs and firearms, BUT, if they were used in the
    committing of a crime, then make the punishment so harsh that
    it would prevent them from doing it again.

    For example, kill someone while on cocaine, fine, sounds like
    you should receive capital punishment. Drug use should never
    be used as an excuse.

    Use a gun to commit a robbery, again, capital punishment.

    Kill someone with a gun? Capital punishment.

    Sooner or later, the number of crimes WILL go down.

More...