LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

State announces large interstate gun bust in Camden

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

On the street, the law of supply and demand applies particularly in the black market for guns according to New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who on Wednesday announced investigators had busted an interstate gun trafficking ring anchored in Ohio with a direct pipeline to Camden. They indicted seven men and seized 17 guns.

“A number of those guns trafficked by this very ring were involved in a number of violent crimes in Camden over the last several years. Seventeen guns linked to this weapons trafficking ring were recovered, including the two assault rifles that I just mentioned, as well as 14 handguns,” said Grewal.

“They’d drive them from Ohio here to New Jersey, to Camden, over 500 miles to deliver the weapons to the local traffickers. We allege that the defendants ultimately resold the assault rifles on the streets for prices of up to $2,000,” said Elie Honig, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice for the state’s Office of the Attorney General.

Investigators say the ringleader and straw purchaser in Ohio could turn big profits because Ohio requires zero permits to buy firearms. Also, they’re relatively cheap there compared to New Jersey. That’s the supply side.

“Mr. Hammond walked into the store, presented his driver’s license. They run a brief criminal check which takes anywhere from 25 to 30 minutes. Then you’re able to walk out with however many guns you want,” said Grewal.

New Jersey’s tough gun laws, in part, drive the demand for contraband weapons. Police say five these Camden middlemen would impose a surcharge on the Ohio weapons sold here as their share of the profit.

“Each gun that we seize or take off the street is a life or multiple lives that we save in the process,” said Grewal.

Traffickers do a booming business. In 2016, the ATF sourced 2,500 guns recovered by police in New Jersey, and 80 percent of them traveled a black market route called the Iron Pipeline, stretching from 10 mostly southern states with loose gun laws. Sixty-one guns came from Ohio. The suspects now face racketeering and other charges that could result in 20 to 40 year sentences, on conviction. The gun bust underscores an ongoing tension between states with lax gun control laws — and strict control states like New Jersey.

“There are several less felons are supplying other gang members in this city with devices that can kill innocent people and we’re happy about that,” said Chief Scott Thomson of Camden County Police Department.

Police know one bust won’t shut down gun trafficking into New Jersey. There’s just too much money to be made. But at least for now, these guys are out of the business.