There’s a great story out of Chesterfield County, South Carolina, where law enforcement evidently found more than 7,000 stolen guns sitting in a storage bin on the property of a feller named Brent Nicholson who, in addition to the guns, also was in possession of chainsaws, some 4-wheelers and other stolen junk, much of it sitting in plain view on his front lawn. Actually, the cops had been eyeing ol’ Brent for awhile because of some issues involving drug trafficking, and when they dropped by his house to serve a subpoena on the old boy, they found all those guns.
So the local cops, the State Law Enforcement Division boys and, of course, the ATF, are going to have a rollickin’ good time sorting through all those piles of firearms to figure out the rightful owners, notify and return the stolen property from whence it came and do what they gonna do to good ol’ Brent. But for those of you who think that the seizure of these 7,000 guns means that 7,000 guns won’t have a chance to get out to the street and into the wrong hands, think again. Because the reason the guns were sitting around in the first place is that nobody would take the time or trouble to cart them over to the Iron Pipeline, aka Interstate 95, where they could then be moved up to the crime-gun markets of DC, Baltimore, Philly and New York.
The problem with ol’ Brent’s guns is that they are hunting rifles and shotguns, no handguns and no AR-15s. And while the police said that it “appeared” that the old boy was just “hoarding” the weapons, the truth is that when you break into somebody’s place looking for guns, you’ll find all kinds. Want the short odds that the homes which contained these rifles and shotguns didn’t contain any handguns at all? So as long as ol’ Brent keeps his mouth shut, he’s just guilty of holding stolen property which in a rural area like Chesterfield County just ain’t no big deal.
Back in 2010 Mayors Against Illegal Guns put up a website that showed the state origin and state destination of stolen guns, as well as a report based primarily on ATF trace data from 2009. The report clearly makes the connection between states with high export rates, shorter time-to-crime rates and little or no gun-control laws. It turns out, of course, that states with lax gun laws (like South Carolina) tend to be the states that furnish most of the crime guns. Everytown wants to expand its research but has been stymied by the ATF’s refusal to hand over more data, so the organization recently filed a complaint against the ATF and we’ll see what we see. For all I know, the ATF’s refusal to comply with Everytown is because the agency’s afraid it will be criticized by the loony, pro-gun Congressional gang for infringing on the poor, gun-owner’s 2nd Amendment rights. Or maybe it’s just the old story of another bureaucracy not wanting to tell the public what they really do.
Either way, assuming that sooner or later Everytown pries the detailed trace data away from the ATF, we might find out a bit more about all those other guns that were probably sitting in ol’ Brent Nicholson’s storage bin. But before everyone gets all excited, let’s understand one major limitation about trace data from the ATF, namely, it’s based on when the gun was initially sold, not the date when it was stolen and then wound up in ol’ Brent’s shed.
The ATF tracing system provides “investigative leads in the fight against violent crime,” but the leads don’t shed much light on how guns end up in the ‘wrong’ hands. After all, the states with lax gun laws are also the states in which virtually every house contains guns, which is why ol’ Brent probably sent lots of iron up North but still ended up with 7,000 guns.