Three years ago after community activist Richard Carrington’s home was broken into, someone knocked on his door offering to sell him the same gun stolen from his house. The seller had no idea it was Carrington’s gun.
“My shotgun came back to my front door with someone trying to sell it to me,“ Carrington said. “A lot of these guns are floating from place to place.”
Despite laws restricting the sale of firearms, those working with troubled youth in Pittsburgh know how easy it is to purchase an illegal gun on the street. As the executive director of Voices Against Violence, a nonprofit working to reduce interpersonal conflict among youth in underserved communities, Carrington often interacts with teens that have acquired guns illegally.
“Last night I was talking to a young man who had just bought a gun off the street. He was dealing some drugs and needed a gun,” Carrington said. “I asked him where he got it. His response was ‘I’m a kid I can get anything I want.’”
In Allegheny County firearms were the weapons of choice in 62 of the 71 homicides committed thus far in 2013, according to the New Pittsburgh Courier’s homicide count. In 2012 firearms were used 95 percent of the time.
“The majority of the people I know that get guns that do the crimes are off the streets or from a girlfriend,” Carrington said. “It depends on the age group you’re dealing with. The majority of guns are bought by older teens and those in their young twenties.”
Police departments locally and nationally have cited straw purchasing as the number one way guns fall into the wrong hands. A straw purchase occurs when one person legally able to obtain a firearm, purchases one for someone who is not legally permitted to own a gun.
While Carrington admits straw purchases are common, he said guns are also obtained in other ways.
“If I’m in the streets and I’m living that lifestyle and I know you have guns I’m going to steal one because I know you’re not going to report it,” Carrington said. “If criminals were relying solely on their families, it could be traced back easily. It’s easier to steal them off of people in their neighborhoods.”
Carrington said illegal guns are sold for as little as $50 and as much as $500 or more.
“What you buy on the street actually varies. If you want something a little more powerful, the price goes up,” Carrington said. “It depends who you’re buying it off of. If I stole the gun I’m just trying to get rid of it so I might just sell it cheaper.”
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