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Crime Guns Crossing Borders and Taking Lives

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Every day in cities across the country, Americans turn on the nightly news and see an all too familiar story-criminals using guns to commit crimes like robberies, assaults, and homicides.

With so many senseless gun-related crimes happening, we need to pause and ask ourselves how these guns end up in the hands of criminals.

Today, as a member of the nationwide coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, I am pleased to announce the release of our report, Trace the Guns: The Link Between Gun Laws and Gun Trafficking, that points to an answer.

The report analyzed crime gun trace data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and paints a portrait of states around the country that are the top sources of guns recovered in crimes. In 2009, the ten states that supplied the highest rate of crime guns were Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alaska, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Nevada, and Georgia.

Trace the Guns reveals that there is a clear pattern to the movement of illegal guns in America: states with the weakest gun laws consistently supply crime guns to other states at the highest rates.

You can check out a comprehensive interactive map of gun trafficking patterns across the United States at www.TraceTheGuns.org.

Californians, for example, can click on our state and learn about the number of crime guns that we export and import to the interstate marketplace for illegal weapons. And you'll see that the news for us is both good and bad.

The good news is California's gun laws work. The Legal Community Against Violence has rated California as having the strongest gun laws in the nation. They're right. Our laws - including a requirement to run a criminal background check on nearly every kind of firearms transfer - are the reason why we have one of the lowest rates of crime gun exports in the country. In fact, we supply crime guns at a rate that is three times below the national average and seven times below that of the ten states with the highest crime gun export rates.

The bad news is that a lot of crime guns are flowing into California from other states. For every one crime gun that California exports, we get more than two crime guns imported back into our state. And two of our neighboring states are among the fifteen highest crime gun exporters in the nation. In 2009, Nevada (the nation's 9th highest exporting state) and Arizona (13th) exported more than 1,300 guns recovered in California crimes. Neither Nevada nor Arizona have enacted any of the ten gun laws associated in the report with reduced illegal gun trafficking.

Here along America's Southwest border, we know gun trafficking is an international problem. Another report, The Movement of Illegal Guns Across the U.S.-Mexico Border, released earlier this month, found that 75% of the U.S. crime guns recovered in Mexico originate from the four border states - with roughly 40% originating from Texas alone.

Although California supplies fewer guns per capita to Mexico than other border states, our state still serves as a conduit for crime guns flowing in to Mexico. Gun trafficking into and through California is a serious and deadly problem.

In 2008, there were nearly 1,500 gun murders in California and just over the border in Mexico there is a drug war raging that is fueled by guns from the United States.

I hope Trace the Guns is a wake-up call to state and federal legislators; we must all work together to develop national, comprehensive policies that will help keep illegal guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals. Our safety and future depend on it.