NORRISTOWN, Pa. - A look at the news any day will confirm a serious gun problem in the area. There appear to be way too many illegal guns on the streets.
Prosecutors say many of them are the result of straw purchases.
Early August 2020 and Norristown police are called to a local hospital for a teenager with a gunshot wound. Responding officers found 17-year-old Rahajahi Batchelor having shot himself in the arm.
They go to his Norristown apartment where investigators allege they found new guns still in boxes. They say the discovery was part of what they claim was a major gun ring he boasted about online.
"How does a 17-year-old get into the gun business?" asked FOX 29’s Jeff Cole.
"The one you mentioned is an individual who was running a major gun operation that bought 44 guns. Only a few of them have been recovered," replied Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele.
Batchelor, now 18, is charged as an adult with 160 felony counts and is jailed, awaiting trial.
He’s not alone.
D.A. Steele has made multiple arrests fur gun-running, including 14 suspects in February, some with Montgomery County addresses.
"Why is this a county where you see so much in the way of gun trafficking?" Cole asked.
"We prioritize this because of the loss of life that’s going on. A lot of these investigations have Montco ties," Steele answered.
While the incidents have local ties, investigators believe the guns they’re dumping on the streets are fueling the gun violence plaguing the region.
Authorities say they’re doing it with straw purchases, where a legal buyer buys for an illegal one.
Gun shop owners say they’re impossible to sniff out.
"There’s absolutely nothing we can do. Certainly, we don’t want anybody buying a gun illegally or for somebody else," Jeff Zachary, with Treeline Sports, explained.
"Multiple purchases of the same gun – that’s a red flag," D.A. Steele added.
Steele thinks shop owners in his county can be more sharp-eyed to halt straw purchases.
Gun reformers argue for feet-on-the-street.
"By investing in these community prevention strategies, with groups on the ground, embedded in the community, actually have shown reactions in crime very, very quickly," Adam Garber, with CeaseFirePA, stated.
All agree aggressive law enforcement is needed for safety, even in Montgomery County.
"Do you think they’re aware of how guns are moved in this county?" inquired Cole.
"People are aware of the violence that comes from illegal guns and there is no neighborhood that’s safe from this," Steele responded.
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