PHILADELPHIA - The governors of four northeastern states agreed Thursday to share information about firearms purchases to help detect and investigate straw buyers and other gun crimes.
Chief executives in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania signed a 10-page agreement to exchange gun crime data for use only by law enforcement, with provisions governing security and mandated notice if the information is misused or improperly accessed.
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The four Democratic governors said the initiative will help target gun networks that cross state lines.
"Firearms trafficking networks frequently engage in criminal activities on an interstate basis, and in order to prevent gun violence in our communities, we must work collaboratively as a region," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement.
The states plan to share details they get from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives through "eTrace" reports that show who first bought and sold guns recovered during criminal investigations. The states can also share gun data that predates the Thursday agreement.
They are not required to share traces that are considered "priority and/or sensitive," according to the agreement.
The memorandum of understanding expires in five years but will automatically be renewed annually after that unless a state wants to get out. States may also withdraw with a 30-day notice.
The deal requires each state to designate and screen the law enforcement people who will be allowed access to the data, and it must be kept on computer systems dedicated to criminal justice.
The states must notify each other if the information is misused, including unauthorized access, disclosure, copying, modification, storage or deletion.
"We think they will be able to capture more of the illegal firearm traffic happening," says Adam Garber, Executive Director of CeaseFire PA. "When we can track down the person that’s delivering 10 this week and 20 next week that means we can stop that flow of firearms that are being used in homicides."
Without the agreement, federal law only allows the data from the ATF to be shared within state lines.
Garber says that’s why the announcement is important, but there is still work to be done.
"I think it will take some time but this agreement will make a difference in halting some of the flow of firearms into communities like Philadelphia that are fueling the violence."