Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Attempt to Curb Illegal Gun Sales Is Stalling Here Only 3 Indictments since Early 2013

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Attempt to Curb Illegal Gun Sales Is Stalling Here Only 3 Indictments since Early 2013

Article excerpt

Nearly a year and a half after U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton announced a crackdown on illegal gun ownership, in particular so- called straw purchases, momentum has stalled locally, with only three new indictments since that initial announcement and none so far this year.

Straw purchasing is the illegal act of buying a firearm for someone else, often because a criminal record prevents that person from owning a weapon. The practice recently made the national spotlight when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that straw purchasing is illegal even if the eventual recipient of the gun is legally entitled to own it.

In February 2013, Mr. Hickton and representatives of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced the indictments of 17 people on various gun charges, including felony possession and making false statements to a gun dealer. Of the seven who were charged in federal court, all were eventually convicted.

Since then, only three more people have been charged in connection with straw purchases, according to the U.S. Attorney'?s Office.

Mr. Hickton described the announcement last year as a deterrent - - the hope being that potential straw buyers would take notice and refrain from illegal activity. He nevertheless acknowledged that straw purchasing remains a "huge problem" among the overall issue of illegal gun ownership, adding that "the number of guns in the hands of felons is troubling."

A straw purchase can be stopped at the source sometimes if a firearms dealer becomes suspicious, according to Mr. Hickton, but this is not usually the case. Part of the problem is that "straw purchasing is not often a reported crime," said Steve Bartholomew, an ATF special agent. "Usually law enforcement only becomes aware of a straw purchase after a gun becomes involved in an investigation."

Such was the case with Asia M. …

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