Illegal Firearms Trafficking and Tracing

Many successful gun violence interventions, including Boston's Operation Ceasefire, also go after illegal gun trafficking to reduce the number of guns available to youth. The Ceasefire Working Group looked at both the issues of supply and demand: Where were youths getting guns, and why were they acquiring them? In a nutshell, the answers were largely: Youths get guns through a ready supply of illicit firearms sold on the street, and they frequently acquire them because of their fears of being hurt or killed (voiced as self-protection).

Ceasefire tried several approaches at once. The Working Group decided to focus on traffickers of the types of guns used by Boston street gangs. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) worked closely with Boston police to flag guns that had recently been purchased (illegally) and used in a crime. They also expanded the focus to include intrastate as well as interstate trafficking, with interesting results — most illegal guns were trafficked to Boston streets from within the state.

Date Modified: June 24, 2011