Are Virginia gun laws to blame for gun trafficking in New York?

Photo credit: NYPD
Photo credit: NYPD(WHSV)
Published: Mar. 10, 2017 at 12:45 PM EST
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Twenty-two Virginians have been arrested in New York

. Investigators say they bought guns here in the Commonwealth and transferred them back because of gun laws here that are considerably more lax than in New York.

One of the suspects arrested in the gun trafficking ring - Antwan Walker - was recorded by police saying "In Virginia, our laws are so little, I can give guns away."

In Virginia and New York, firearms dealers must have a license to sell. Both states also require background checks to purchase firearms. However, there are some differences that make laws here in Virginia seem more relaxed.

According to Maynard Lawhorne, who owns Lynchburg Arms, "anyone over the age of 21 that has a clean criminal record and that has a state ID issued by the state of Virginia," can legally purchase a gun in Virginia.

"It's a constitutional right to own a gun. I mean, they go through the background check so they have a clean criminal history. It doesn't mean someone can't go and do what these guys did," says Lawhorne.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring argues that's part of the problem.

"New York indicted individuals who were involved in gun trafficking out of Virginia and it is shameful that Virginia's gun laws are so lax that we now have gun runners on tape talking about how easy it is to buy guns in Virginia," he tweeted out.

The laws he refers to include private gun sales not requiring a background check. Also, in 2011, the law prohibiting customers from buying one gun a month was repealed.

The Attorney General says something must be done to stop this, and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam agrees.

"Law enforcement is doing their absolute best to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. But there's only so much we can do with the law the way they are," says Attorney General Herring.

According to the District Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, who is trying this case, in New York, one has to present a legitimate reason for purchasing a gun.

That is not a requirement here in Virginia.

"I find this case truly, truly infuriating," Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. "As so long as anybody continues to peddle death in our borough, we will continue this hard work ... including beyond state lines."

Prosecutors said the guns - including 217 assault weapons, tommy guns and handguns - were bought in many different Brooklyn neighborhoods and were sold for up to $1,200 for a handgun and up to $2,200 for an assault weapon. Prosecutors said it was the largest number of guns purchased in one operation in Brooklyn.

Northam issued the following statement on Friday calling for the reinstatement of Virginia’s one gun a month policy

“Virginia had it right the first time we put ‘one gun a month’ in place over twenty years ago. I voted against its repeal in 2012 because I knew it would roll out the welcome mat to weapons traffickers. Once again, we find ourselves to be the source of an ‘iron pipeline’ of weapons that spreads to other states and across our Commonwealth. We are long overdue for a return to this common sense standard of limiting gun purchases to one a month and ensuring weapons remain only in the hands of law-abiding Virginians.”