"To reduce gun violence in our communities and to reduce the threat to our communities, and to reduce the threat to our law enforcement officers from assault rifles and other illegal firearms, we need to stop the flow of illegal guns into our state," New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said Friday.
"New Jersey has some of the toughest gun laws in this country. You can’t just walk into a store here, present your driver’s license, and walk out with multiple guns, including assault rifles," Grewal said in announcing indictments against seven purported members of a Camden-affiliated gun trafficking ring that he said brought assault rifles in from Ohio to Camden for sale.
"But other states, unfortunately, like Ohio, don’t have similar procedures," he said.
"There it’s easy to buy guns," the attorney general said, "[and some of] those guns end up in New Jersey, where they’re sold illegally and used in violent crimes.
"In fact, more than three out of four of the guns recovered in New Jersey in 2016 and traced by the ATF originated in other states," said Grewal, a former Bergen County prosecutor. "Sixty-one of those guns recovered in 2016, originated in Ohio, making it the 8th largest distributor of illegal firearms recovered in New Jersey."
The AK-47s and AR-15s recovered during the investigation were among more than 30 firearms brought into New Jersey from Ohio -- including 14 handguns, several of which were semi-automatic pistols equipped with illegal high-capacity magazines -- the state indictment charges.
The ringleader, Chucky Scott of Columbus, Ohio, used a straw purchaser with a clean record, Anthony Hammond, "to walk into gun stores in Ohio or go online and buy firearms that were trafficked into this area using 'middlemen' who lived in or near Camden and acted as the wholesalers of these guns," Grewal said.
All seven defendants are charged with racketeering, which, the attorney general noted, carry 10-to-20-year prison sentences upon conviction at trial -- 85% of which must be served under state law.
"If the sentences are more severe in federal court, we will seek and we will pursue those sentences," Grewal added.
"We are committed to putting an end to this iron pipeline of illegal firearms coming into this state, whether it’s from Ohio or whether other states, where individuals are buying guns in this manner and then selling them to criminals on the streets in cities like Camden and elsewhere in New Jersey. where they are being used in violent crime.
"These dangers will remain as long as criminals have easy access to the type of lethal firearms trafficked by these seven defendants," he said.
Stopping it starts with "dismantling organized rings such as the one uncovered in this case," Grewal said.
"Simply put, each gun that we seize or take off the street is a life or multiple lives that we saved in the process," he said. "We can not, and we must not, become complacent in our efforts."
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