State to bet­ter track guns used in crimes

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARC LEVY

HARRISBURG — The Penn­syl­va­nia at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice launched an ef­fort Thurs­day to im­prove the use of firearms data­bases, so law en­force­ment can bet­ter track guns used in crimes and, ul­ti­mately, clamp down on gun vi­o­lence.

The move comes amid a surge in such vi­o­lence in Philadelph­ia. The city’s rate of homi­cides this year is about the same as it was in 2018, when Philadelph­ia recorded 349 of them, the most since 2007.

Speak­ing at a news con­fer­ence in Erie, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro called gun vi­o­lence a “pub­lic health epi­demic.” To at­tack it, he wants po­lice de­part­ments to en­ter serial num­bers from ev­ery gun used in a crime or seized by po­lice into a fed­eral lawen­force­ment data­base, so its orig­i­nal seller can be iden­ti­fied and the in­for­ma­tion shared with other law en­force­ment agen­cies.

“Be­cause this in­for­ma­tion is not shared, we ac­tu­ally have no idea how many crime guns were re­cov­ered in Penn­syl­va­nia last year, and that makes us all less safe,” Shapiro said.

The U.S. Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives and crim­i­nol­o­gists say tracing the source of ev­ery gun used in a crime can pro­vide leads to gun traf­fick­ers or il­le­gal sell­ers and pur­chasers. But law en­force­ment an­a­lysts say that not

‘Be­cause this in­for­ma­tion is not shared, we ac­tu­ally have no idea how many crime guns were re­cov­ered in Penn­syl­va­nia last year, and that makes us all less safe.’

Josh Shapiro Penn­syl­va­nia at­tor­ney gen­eral

ev­ery po­lice depart­ment in the U.S. traces all such firearms.

Penn­syl­va­nia law re­quires guns used in crimes to be traced, and in­for­ma­tion can be sub­mit­ted var­i­ous ways to the ATF.

About 433 out of about 1,100 law en­force­ment agen­cies in Penn­syl­va­nia are us­ing eTrace, an in­ter­net-based sys­tem that al­lows law en­force­ment agen­cies to sub­mit traces to the fed­eral agency, the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice said.

Of those, just 63 al­low other po­lice de­part­ments to see what they sub­mit to the tracing sys­tem, the of­fice said.

David Chip­man, a re­tired ATF agent and now se­nior pol­icy ad­viser for the Gif­fords Cen­ter, said Penn­syl­va­nia is fol­low­ing in the foot steps of New Jersey, when it be­came the first state to re­quire po­lice to trace ev­ery gun seized and to share that in­for­ma­tion with the state at­tor­ney gen­eral.

That should be a base­line re­quire­ment of po­lice de­part­ments, Chip­man said. But he ac­knowl­edged that some don’t have the re­sources while oth­ers may sim­ply not un­der­stand the value of shar­ing in­for­ma­tion.

SHAPIRO

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