Md. ranks 5th in number of `high-crime' gun shops

U.S. safety group lists stores selling weapons traced to investigations

January 13, 2004|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

Maryland ranks fifth in the nation in the number of stores selling guns later used in crimes or found in the hands of criminals, according to a new report from an advocacy group.

The report, prepared by the Washington-based Americans for Gun Safety Foundation, calls for federal agencies to step up investigation and prosecution of what the organization considers corrupt stores.

"Selling Crime: High Crime Gun Stores Fuel Criminals" lists stores by name, ranking them by the number of guns sold that went on to be linked by authorities to a criminal investigation.

High-crime stores were defined as those that had 200 or more traces put on their guns over five years. It identified 120 such stores in 22 states, including 11 stores in Maryland.

The store selling the most such guns nationally from 1996 through 2000 was Chuck's Guns in Riverdale, Ill., which had 2,370 traces. Topping Maryland's list was Realco Guns Inc. in Forestville, Prince George's County, with 897 traces.

Jim Kessler, the report's author, said 7 million guns are sold in the United States in an average year, and 300,000 are used in crimes. "How do you protect the rights of the 7 million while protecting the 300,000? One of the ways is to crack down on these high-crime gun stores," he said.

A Baltimore spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives questioned some of the report's assumptions.

"When you have a gun store located in a high-crime area that does a high-volume business, a lot of guns will be traced back to them," said ATF spokeswoman Kelly Long. "It doesn't mean that [the store owner] is doing something illegal."

Half of the stores cited by the report were in five states: Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland. Kessler said Maryland has a relatively high number because it is a "fairly important gun trafficking state" and because Baltimore and other areas experience a lot of crime. "Guns bought in Maryland do show up in crimes committed in other states," he said.

Valley Gun Shop on Harford Road in Parkville is also listed as a high-crime dealer. Owner Sanford Abrams said he is angered by the label, saying the foundation is taking "raw data and making totally false assumptions."

He said the store, in business for 50 years, sells 2,000 to 3,000 guns a year, and traces were done on 483 over five years. Just because a gun is traced, he said, doesn't mean it was used during a crime - some are found by police, some are stolen from their owners, some are turned into police after a fire.

"We do nothing wrong," Abrams said. "We sell under the tightest security."

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