Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Georgia a key weapons supplier to nation's criminals


Like its owner, the weapon used to kill two New York City police officers has Georgia connections. According to the New York Times, the Taurus pistol's last public sale occurred at Arrowhead Pawn Shop in Jonesboro, although that was back in 1996. Authorities are still trying to trace how it ended up 18 years later in the hands of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a convicted felon with a history of mental illness.

Arrowhead Pawn Shop, however, has a story of its own:

"Although Arrowhead is nearly 900 miles away, New York police officials are familiar with the store ... As recently as 2010, Arrowhead was the leading out-of-state source of guns recovered in crimes by the New York Police Department, according to an article in The Daily News. Georgia is also part of the “Iron Pipeline,” a chain of Southern states with looser gun laws that is responsible for sending a steady stream of firearms into New York and other Northern cities, where there are many more restrictions on who can purchase a gun....

Information in the federal database on which gun dealers turn up most frequently in these traces is closely protected, as a result of legislation passed in 2003. But The Washington Post obtained four years’ worth of trace data in 2010 and found Arrowhead was the fifth-largest source of crime traces in the country."

The fact that such data are treated as a national secret tells you a lot about how seriously we take such issues.

And apparently, the "Iron Pipeline" takes a variety of forms. As the AJC has reported, federal officials have arrested two men this month -- one a Delta baggage handler, another a former Hartsfield employee -- and charged them with smuggling dozens of firearms, some of them loaded, on board flights between Atlanta and New York.

According to documents filed in federal court, the two men have smuggled 129 firearms, including two assault weapons, from Georgia to New York since May. The baggage handler allegedly used his employee badge to carry the guns undetected into the secure area of the airport, then handed them off to an accomplice with a ticket to New York.

That's disturbing for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the ease with which contraband made its way onto an aircraft. Security experts say the lack of screening of airport employees has been a well-known weakness at airports all over the country. The AJC story recounts a long list of such incidents, and by definition those are the ones that we've learned about. They no doubt represent only a small fraction of the illegal, deadly traffic.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.