80 percent of the murders in Allegheny County last year were the result of a gun, according to US Attorney David Hickton. In an effort to reduce gun violence, he announced his office and other law enforcement agencies are working to crack down on so-call straw purchasers.
“Straw purchasers are those who purchase firearms and lie about their identity or the identity of the actual purchaser,” said Hickton.
The guns are then given, sold, or traded to someone who is not legally allowed to own a firearm. Hickton said the local strategy involves vigorous enforcement of federal, state, and local laws, charging criminals who possess illegal guns and those who facilitate the possession of illegal firearms.
No new programs or laws were announced, but Hickton said the push to maximize efforts to prosecute illegal gun transactions has led to 17 cases, seven of them federal and ten of them in cooperation between state partners against straw purchasers.
“Four of these cases are in Washington County, three are in Allegheny County, two are in Indiana County, and one is in Green County,” said Hickton.
Hickton said while law enforcement efforts are focused on straw purchasers and illegal gun owners, even legal gun owners have a role to play in keeping guns out of criminal hands.
“We can stop this process at the threshold if legal gun owners can do a better job securing their gun and engage in more responsible gun ownership,” he said, “so if you have a legal gun with a concealed carry permit, you don’t go to a Steeler game and leave it on your seat.”
Under federal law, persons are prohibited from acquiring firearms if they:
- Have been convicted or are under indictment for a felony
- Are fugitives from justice
- Are unlawful users of or are addicted to any controlled substances
- Have been adjudicated as mental defectives or have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution
- Are illegal aliens or are aliens admitted to the US under a non-immigrant visa
- Have been dishonorably discharged from the military
- Have renounced their US citizenship
- Are subject to certain domestic violence restraining orders
- Have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor