Turn the heat up on illegal possession of firearms

The recent Las Vegas mass shooting has once again ignited the gun ban debate. And like other major issues, the nation is divided on how to prevent gun violence.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported in its Monday edition that more illegal firearms are turning up in evidence rooms across Minnesota, according to federal authorities. The Star Tribune reported the number of unlawfully possessed guns traced in Minnesota last year was the highest ever. Federal authorities in Minnesota say it reflects a troubling rise in shootings among rival gangs members each to reach for a gun.

And of course this is a trend found in other areas of the nation. In Chicago for instance, it was reported in July that police officers seized nearly 5,200 illegal guns off the streets in 2017.

So one of the big issues of gun violence: There’s just too many illegal guns on America’s streets.

Where do these guns come from?

Many come from burglaries. Guns are expensive, so criminals look for easy targets for theft. Even right here in Southwest Minnesota a Balaton resident who was convicted in a 2014 shooting of man near Granite Falls was recently charged in connections with a 2014 burglary at a Marshall sporting goods store. The complaint alleges that handguns, rifles and ammunition were stolen.

And it’s just not retail stores who sell guns that targeted. Guns are often stolen from friends and family members.

While the gun debate continues, getting tougher on criminals who possess illegal guns might be a start. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions this past summer urged U.S. Attorneys to take the lead on local violent crime strategies. Sessions is demanding a “substantial increase” in federal gun prosecutions. Sessions also announced that he would be reigniting a George W. Bush-era strategy to further crack down on gun and gang crimes called Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Now would be a good time to reexamine federal and state penalties for possessing illegal guns, especially for convicted felons.

Secondly, it’s imperative that gun owners secure their firearms. People whose guns are stolen need to report all thefts to police. In some cases, gun theft victims suspect a family member and may want to protect them. However, this could lead to tragedy.

More importantly, citizens need to take an active role in reporting illegal gun activity. Tips to law enforcement may end up saving lives.

Stopping illegal activity should be a shared goal for all sides of the gun debate. Protect legal activity by reporting stolen guns. Prosecute those who possess or traffic illegal guns to the fullest extent of the law.