American Morning

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February 17th, 2010
10:00 AM ET

The Gun Trail: Tracking guns that go missing

Editor's Note: There is a major fight going on at the local level over a new law intended to keep guns out of criminal hands. Critics say it's just another case of legislating against the legal and responsible gun owners. Our Ed Lavandera has the report for part three of our American Morning original series, "The Gun Trail."

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Ed Lavandera reports on a controversial law about tracking lost and stolen guns."]

By Ed Lavandera, CNN

Jana Finder says not enough is being done to keep illegally trafficked guns off Pennsylvania's streets. This might be the heart of northeastern gun country.

Finder, along with a group called "Ceasefire PA," has launched a grassroots campaign to get local governments to sign on to what's become a highly controversial law, called "lost and stolen" ordinances.

Supporters of gun rights hate it. The ordinances require gun owners to report if their weapons have been lost or stolen, usually within 24 hours.

"There is very strong support from law officers,” says Finder. "They've told us this kind of requirement would give them another investigative tool to help crackdown and reduce the numbers of illegal handguns on our streets."

Watch "The Gun Trail" part three Video

Finder says these laws target the number one source of guns for criminals – people with clean records who buy guns then supply them to street criminals; so-called "straw purchasers."

The battle over these ordinances is being waged in small towns all across Pennsylvania, in city council chambers like one we visited in Duqeusne, Pennsylvania.


Filed under: Crime • The Gun Trail
February 16th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

The Gun Trail: How legal guns go bad

Editor’s Note: In this week’s American Morning original series “The Gun Trail,” we are taking a look at how legal guns could get into the wrong hands. Today, our Ed Lavandera is on the front line – a state at the start of the so-called iron pipeline – a pipeline that could end in your streets. Tomorrow, we go from the front line to the end of the line – the city streets. Are laws at the local level making it harder for the criminals or the legal and responsible gun owners?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="CNN's Ed Lavandera looks at both sides of the "lost or stolen" weapons law in the fight against gun trafficking."]

By Ed Lavandera, CNN

Kayton Smith says you'd be surprised the stories gun buyers reveal.

"What made you decide to buy a firearm?" he asks a potential customer.

"Do you want to know the truth?" the customer asks.

You are about to hear the kind of story that puts Kayton Smith on edge.

"I left New York owing someone a lot of money and eventually they’re going to find me. Better safe than sorry," the customer tells Smith.

The buyer is a legal Russian immigrant. After calling the FBI's instant background check system, the sale is put on hold while the Feds look deeper into his background.

Smith and Ricky Duffy run The Gun Shop in Savannah, Georgia. We spent a day with them, watching dozens of customers come through The Gun Shop.

Watch "The Gun Trail" part two Video

According to federal statistics, Georgia is the number one state for exported guns used in crimes across the country. Gun safety advocates say that has created what is known as "the iron pipeline" of illegal guns flowing north, from places like Savannah, Georgia into northeastern states with stricter gun laws.


Filed under: Crime • The Gun Trail
February 15th, 2010
12:00 PM ET

The Gun Trail: Riding along with Houston's ATF

Editor’s Note: As drugs and violence flow north from Mexico, guns are heading south from the U.S. Our Ed Lavandera rides along with an ATF agent for part one of the American Morning original series “The Gun Trail.” Tomorrow, he heads to Savannah, Georgia to see how gun smugglers are taking advantage of the state's weaker gun laws, and why shop owners say they're not part of the problem.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A sign warning border-crossers that weapons are forbidden in Mexico is posted on the streets of the border town of Lukeville, Arizona."]

By Ed Lavandera, CNN

We drove the streets of Houston with an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). We can't tell you who he is because he's in the midst of the biggest case he's ever worked; battling lethal Mexican drug cartels on American streets.

"We started seeing [the guns] popping up in Mexico and then further down in Guatemala is where it really opened our eyes that we're onto something pretty big here," the agent says.

What they found was a trail from Houston to Guatemala littered with almost 340 guns purchased by so-called "straw buyers” – 23 Houston-area residents, all with squeaky clean records and legally allowed to buy guns.

Investigators say almost 100 of those guns have since turned up at crime scenes south of the border, in the hands of the drug cartels.

Watch "The Gun Trail" part one Video

"They're fighting each other for turf in Mexico. And unfortunately, many law enforcement and civilians are being killed in that fight," says Special Agent in Charge Dewey Webb.


Filed under: Crime • The Gun Trail