Police fighting gun trafficking might get new law with help of local congressman

Posted at 9:47 PM, Feb 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-05 21:47:43-05

He is a Republican, a gun owner, and a card-carrying member of the NRA...but Tuesday, Congressman Scott Rigell reached across the aisle, and along with Democrats, introduced a bill he hopes will help law enforcement fight gun trafficking, and in turn, stop gun violence.

“Right now, it’s just not a big deal to buy a gun for someone else,” said Rigell at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

The new law, called the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013, will create stiff federal penalties for those that buy guns for criminals.

One of the bill's co-sponsors is Representative Elijah Cummings from Maryland.

“This is extremely personal for me. A year and a half ago, I lost my nephew, Christopher Cummings, to a senseless act of gun violence,” said Cummings.

Christopher, a student at Old Dominion University here in Norfolk, was shot and killed in his off-campus home--police still have not made an arrest or found the gun used in the crime.

“It’s a painful experience to see your blood splattered along the walls of an apartment,” said Cummings.

These congressmen say law enforcement agencies have begged for years for a federal law.

Right now, the punishment for those with clean records who buy guns for criminals is little more than a slap on the wrist. But with this new bill, what they call straw purchasing would become a felony punishable with up to 20 years in prison.

The sentence will be even longer if you are found to be part of a large trafficking network and local gang investigators tell NewsChannel 3 those trafficking networks exist right here in Hampton Roads.

“It’s a natural occurrence. Gang members or drug dealers from Hampton Roads will take firearms they get cheaply here, and take them up to New York, where they will exchange them for drugs. It’s a continuing criminal pattern,” said Detective Kenny Gavin with the Portsmouth Police Department.

Gavin is one of the many local investigators who work with the FBI's gang task force and they say most Hampton Roads gangs get their weapons from these straw purchasers.

Since Virginia's gun laws are less restrictive than those in New York, local gangs make a lot of money trafficking the weapons up north.

“Down here, a gun that could sell on the street for 15 dollars, up there you can sell for 150 dollars,” said Gavin.

Now, Congressman Rigell hopes that trafficking cycle involving guns, drugs and gangs will end with his bill.

“It punishes the bad guys, protects the good guys it just makes common sense,” said  Rigell.