The Bureau of Justice Statistics performed a seven-year study on inmates in state prisons and found that a growing number of prisoners who possessed a firearm when they offended were getting their guns from street sources like drug dealers. Records show that 20.3 percent of interviewed prisoners had obtained their gun from a street source in 1997. By 2004, that number had risen to 25.2 percent.
During the same time period, the number of offenders getting guns from every specific category declined. There were eleven categories in all. In essence, state inmates were getting these firearms less often from retail stores, pawnshops, friends, and family. Overall, 11.3 percent of these inmates had purchased their gun from a legitimate outlet; 37.4 percent had obtained their gun from a family member or friend; 11.2 percent had gotten their firearm from “other” sources; and 40 percent had secured their weapon from illegal sources like the “street.”
“Type 1 Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders are a key supplier of guns to criminals”
San Quentin News interviewed seven inmates here at San Quentin who possessed a pistol while committing their offense. Of these seven, five bought or stole their gun from a drug dealer or other street market. While four interviewees requested anonymity, Justis Evans stated frankly that he’s serving 19 years to life for a second degree murder he committed with a gun he stole from a street dealer. George “Mesro” ColesEl also was armed when he committed the burglary for which he is serving 35 years. When asked where he got his gun, he blinked, paused and said, simply, “The street.”
So who supplies the “street” with guns? According to the Violence Policy Center, Type 1 Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders are a key supplier of guns to criminals, and a 2006 AVP report points to “kitchen-table” gun dealers as prime offenders. “Kitchen-table” dealers are people who sell guns from their homes and offices but do not operate an actual store. They are the most numerous class of FFL holders in the U.S. While many secure FFLs to enjoy lower gun prices and “evade ‘red tape’,” others use them to facilitate wholesale criminal gun trafficking. In fact, the ATF report “Following the Gun” found 23 percent of randomly sampled investigations involved “kitchen-table” dealers.