The Grand Rapids Press must’ve been bummed when the Washington Post published the results of its year-long investigation into the source of firearms used in local crimes. Not that the WaPo piece had anything substantive to say. Nor did the D.C. muckrakers release the trace data that they’d spent so much time, effort and money assembling (for fear of lawsuits methinks). But the chances of the Grand Rapids Press winning a Pulitzer Prize disappeared. Or did they? If the mid-West paper’s six-month investigation into so-called crime guns could offer fresh insights into the nature of the illegal weapons trade then . . . they’d be telling their readers what gun rights groups have been saying for decades. With anecdotes! And so it has come to pass . . .
The five-part series starts with no less than five reports. The total population of guns that unleashed this journalistic tsunami: 110, seized from Jan. 1, 2007, to April 7, 2008. “Of the 64 that could be traced, 38 originated in Michigan — most of those from West Michigan.” Not a large sample then. Anyway, the intro piece pretty much says everything you need to know:
Among the findings:
• Most guns linked to local crimes originated here, often taken in burglaries or stolen by family or friends desperate for cash.
• Some weapons circulate for decades. In two cases, handguns stolen 34 years ago reappeared this year in West Michigan, one in a high school locker, the other in a traffic stop that was the first incident in a deadly chain of events in October.
• In rare instances, the time to crime is violently quick. The 9mm that Gabriel Hood pointed at a cop on March 18 disappeared from a Lowell Township home less than three months earlier.
• Some guns are used more than once. One has been tied to at least five shootings, including the killing of a Grand Rapids college student robbed for $10. That firearm remains unrecovered.
• And some guns travel. One, stolen from a Rockford business nearly a decade ago, turned up two years later in an Iowa school locker. Another, taken from the same business, was used just last month by a teen who fired the .44 Magnum at detectives in southeast Michigan.
So what do we learn from all this, and from all that accompanies it, and all that (presumably) follows? Straw purchases are, again, a relatively unimportant part of the problem. Modern home sporting defense assault rifles aren’t even mentioned. Oh, and lock up your guns.