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GUNCRAZY: Where Pennsyltucky Meets Killadelphia

Photo by JOE KAZCMAREK

DEENEY: The black market for guns itself remains mercurial, shifting and changing and hard for researchers to accurately quantify. It’s amazing how little we know at this late stage about the illegal gun market in America.  Johns Hopkins’ Webster says that straw purchasers—legal buyers who then turn the guns over to drug dealers or stick-up artists (a federal felony)—play a role. Yet drug dealers in Baltimore (as elsewhere in the US) can also go to gun shows in nearby Virginia to take advantage of the circuit’s freewheeling, unregulated cash-and-carry policies, but according to Webster, the extent to which gun shows serve as the source for the illegal market remains unknown. In North Philly, where former hustler–turned–CeaseFire outreach worker Terry Starks says guns are so plentiful that “getting a strap ain’t nothin’,” the weapons also find their way onto the streets via suburban and rural gun owners who target the neighborhood as a high-demand market where they can easily unload arms they no longer want. “White dudes from upstate will come right up to you on the corner like, ‘I got a nine, what’ll you gimme for it?’” says Starks. “They know they get $100, $150 for it. They already got the serial number scratched off.” MORE

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