Feds say South Carolina is a top source for illegal guns found in Northeastern cities

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 10:23 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 6, 2021 at 11:49 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The federal government is cracking down on guns being bought or stolen in southern states that end up in the hands of criminals.

It’s an initiative to reduce gun violence across the country, and some of that work is focused in South Carolina.

The US Attorney’s Office in South Carolina says hundreds of illegal guns found in some big cities are coming from the Palmetto State. Authorities believe these guns are a part of the reason violent crime has increased recently across the country.

“We’re really a source state, and I would say our destination cities are New York City or Washington D.C. I think South Carolina is one of the highest or the state with the highest number of guns going into Washington D.C. and so a lot of those guns are ending up in the hands of criminals,” Asst. US Attorney Nathan Williams said.

“Illegal” guns are firearms that could have been bought in the Palmetto State legally but then sold or given to people who aren’t allowed to own or use them because of their criminal history or local gun laws or other reasons.

Officials with other agencies, like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, say they also see a lot of stolen guns from South Carolina involved in violent crimes in other parts of the country.

“It partially explains and contributes to the surge in violent crime we are seeing across the country and locally,” Williams said. “The more guns getting out on the streets improperly and illegally…those are getting into the hands of people committing violent crimes. To disrupt those violent criminals we have to get back to the source of those firearms.”

According to ATF, in 2019, more than 7000 firearms were recovered and traced in New York, and 420 were traced back to South Carolina.

In New Jersey, 4,000 guns were found and traced, and it was discovered that 200 of those came from South Carolina.

“I-95 and a lot of these corridors play into a lot of organized crime like drug trafficking and firearm trafficking,” Williams said. “It’s literally the reason we see guns going up to DC and to New York…the main artery that shows the movement of guns all the way up to the Northeast.”

The US Department of Justice has created five new strike forces to help reduce gun violence.

They’ve been tasked with disrupting illegal firearms trafficking across the country.

A part of the process will be tracing guns used in violent crimes back to the people and places they initially came from.

“Individuals who aren’t allowed to possess a firearm, violent groups, gang members, individuals in possession of those firearms with the intent of committing a crime…those are our targets,” ATF Public Information Officer Corey Ray said. “Through firearms trafficking, if we can interrupt that cycle, we have a better shot of addressing violent crime overall.”

When it comes to violent crime happening locally, the US attorney’s office in South Carolina is leading the way in targeting serious crimes involving guns.

More than 50% of the defendants charged with firearms-related offenses in our state have received sentences of at least five years or more, putting the SC office among the top U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the country.

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