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Thread: VA Pilot Article on Teens and Guns

  1. #1
    Regular Member Thundar's Avatar
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    Newport News, Virginia, USA

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    For teens, guns are cheap, available and everywhere

    By Amy Jeter
    Kristin Davis
    The Virginian-Pilot
    © July 5, 2009

    Marvin Knight Jr. paid $50 for a loaded .25-caliber handgun.

    Last July, when he was 17, he used it to kill Chesapeake football standout Lonnie Andrews Jr.

    For South Hampton Roads teens like Knight, getting a gun is as easy as making a phone call or sending an e-mail.

    It took just $70 for a young person to buy a .32-caliber revolver from "some guy" at a Portsmouth gym. In Suffolk, gang members share handguns hidden under bushes and beneath houses, taking them and returning them like spare pennies at a convenience store.

    Weapons pilfered by teens and adults from homes in neighboring Gates County, N.C., last year filtered back to southeastern Virginia within months on the black market.

    In Virginia, it's against the law for anyone under 18 to buy a gun or to possess a handgun or "assault" firearm in public unless they're hunting or carrying out duties in the armed forces. It's also illegal for juveniles to possess any gun on school property, unless it's an unloaded rifle or shotgun that's in a closed case or on a vehicle's firearms rack.

    But authorities say guns are widely available to youngsters. That has turned teenage disputes into crime scenes time and time again, and has ratcheted up the violence in felonies committed by juveniles - particularly robberies.

    Alonzo Ricks, who was 16 in 2007 when he was charged with possessing a gun on school property in Norfolk, says his was a fashion statement.

    "It was like you ain't nobody if you ain't got one."

    Law enforcement officers say most guns owned by teens were either obtained on the streets or stolen somewhere along the way. Their options are plentiful.

    Roshaun Griffin chose the house on Mango Drive because the window was open.

    On a winter day in 2007, the 18-year-old Virginia Beach high school senior slipped inside. He took two handguns, a .40-caliber Ruger and a Smith & Wesson from a toolbox and a table.

    Within days, Griffin lent the Ruger to a friend at a party. The police showed up after the friend fired it several times in the air.

    Griffin was arrested, but not before he threw the Smith & Wesson in a lake.

    Most stolen guns are never returned to their owners. In 2008, Virginians lost more than $3 million worth of guns to thefts, according to State Police. Guns worth $494,825 were recovered - just 16 percent.

    Police have accounted for about half of the guns stolen in a string of Gates County, N.C., burglaries.

    Between April and October of last year, burglars, some of them teens, stole 41 guns from nine people, according to court files.

    Federal agents ultimately caught an 18-year-old trying to sell some of them to a confidential informant in Suffolk.

    Several of the weapons are still out there, including a handgun that shoots .454 Casull ammunition, which is "big enough to bring down a grizzly bear with one shot," Sheriff Edward E. Webb said.

    Because people aren't required to report missing guns to police, law enforcement officers say it's hard to know exactly how many disappear each year.

    They also aren't sure what proportion of firearm thefts are by teens. But in fiscal year 2008, authorities counted 175 arrests of Virginia juveniles for stealing firearms or receiving stolen guns, according to numbers from the state Department of Juvenile Justice.

    In the early 2000s, children as young as 10 broke into gun shops in Suffolk and Carrollton and took dozens of firearms.

    More often, teens take weapons from family members or friends or as part of a larger haul from a burglary.

    In 2008, 17-year-old Wilbert Ackiss broke into a house in a Virginia Beach neighborhood and made off with a laptop, an Xbox 360 and five guns, including a 12-gauge shotgun.

    Some teenagers have sought out homes where gun owners likely resided.

    Sheriff Webb said the Gates County victims were identified by trucks parked in front of houses. The suspects looked for dog boxes on the truck bed and hunting caps on the dashboard, he said.

    Young sailors in South Hampton Roads also can be marks, said Christopher Scott, a special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

    They tend to have guns for personal use that they leave with friends or in a car, Scott said. Distance makes it easy for sailors to lose track of their guns, whether strangers steal them or acquaintances pass them around.

    "That happens constantly," the special agent said. "We interviewed somebody, 'Hey, where's your gun? We just recovered it at a crime.'

    " 'Oh, I don't know. I just left it.' "

    In the loose street network, a gun supplier may be a stranger or a friend, a fellow gang member or an acquaintance without a known last name.

    Sometimes someone hears that a teen is looking for a gun, and calls the young person with a prospective sale. Others describe people approaching them in their neighborhoods looking to buy one.

    Davieon Riden said he bought his first gun for $50 or $60 - money he earned from an off-the-books job detailing cars. He was 12. By 17, he claimed he'd amassed a cache of weapons, including a $400 Ruger pistol. He paid $100 for most.

    Riden, who is now serving a 30-year prison sentence for several armed robberies in Chesapeake in 2006, won't go into detail about how he got the guns. Most young people don't.

    They describe discovering weapons in parking lots, bushes or fields behind schools - accounts that authorities find dubious.

    Knight told police he got his gun from a friend a week before he used it to shoot Andrews during a fist fight.

    "Who's your friend?" the officer asked in a recorded telephone conversation last July.

    "Well he's, well, he's in jail now, but... " Knight trailed off.

    Federal agents see the network in action when they try to make controlled purchases of guns on the street, Scott said.

    "That person makes 10 calls and by the end of the day, they'll have one or two," he said. "Who knows where they got it. By then we're 10 places removed from the actual source of the gun."

    Portsmouth police captured a firearms transaction on a gang member's MySpace page in June 2008.

    As documented in the search warrant affidavit, Anthony Graham, then 17, tells an unidentified person that he had stolen a .45-caliber handgun, then traded it for a 9 mm handgun. He also says he has a "deuce deuce," slang for a .22-caliber handgun.

    Asked how much he wants for the .22, Graham requests $60: "But if you want it you gotta Buy it Before wednesday cKuz leslie Buyin it wednesday," [sic] he typed.

    Teens who can't afford or find a gun sometimes share.

    They snatch these so-called community guns from hiding places - a water meter box, a storm drain, a wooden shed where a leaning board marks the spot, said Suffolk police Sgt. Danny Buie.

    The guns are kept in convenient but careful locations, he said, so they are easy to retrieve but difficult for police to discover.

    In February, Douglas V. Smith told Portsmouth police that he loaned his .32-caliber revolver out to members of the Oaks Mob gang.

    He said his friends gave him money when they used it for "stings" - their term for robberies.

    Smith, who recently turned 18, is awaiting trial on robbery and weapons charges.

    At 14, Alonzo Ricks wanted an AK-47.

    He'd seen it in movies, television shows and the first-person shooter video game "Black." He liked the way it looked and the way it shot.

    "It just fascinated me," Ricks said.

    Instead, he ended up with a wooden-handled Deutsche Werke semi-automatic handgun.

    That was the weapon police caught him with on Norfolk's Norview Middle School campus in October 2007. Ricks, now 18, is serving a 25-year prison sentence on charges related to that incident and a carjacking.

    Most teens with guns live Ricks' reality rather than his dream, federal agents said.

    They seek small guns that they can hide easily in a sleeve, a jacket, the waistband of their pants. They realize that shotguns are better concealed when sawed-off.

    Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives trace guns used in crimes back to their original buyers.

    They said the most popular firearms with local teens linked to crimes include: Hi-Point 9 mm, Ruger 9 mm, Smith & Wesson .40-caliber, Hi-Point 380 ACP.

    Young people usually want something cheap. "Whatever they can get their hands on," Special Agent James Liscinsky said.

    But they are getting expensive guns, too, said Chesapeake police Chief Kelvin Wright.

    His officers, who recovered 13 firearms from juveniles last year, are seeing young people with "high-dollar and high-capacity" weapons. It's a marked change from the "true Saturday night specials" of years ago, he said.

    A person must be at least 21 to legally purchase a pistol, and must be 18 to lawfully buy a rifle or shotgun.

    Laws generally prohibit anyone from buying handguns for minors under 18, but there are exceptions. Federal regulations allow juveniles to receive handguns as gifts from a parent or guardian, and they are permitted to possess the gun with written permission for limited purposes, such as target practice or hunting.

    Virginia law allows an adult to give a handgun to a minor if the transfer is made between family members or is for a sporting event.

    In recent years, however, South Hampton Roads authorities have rarely pursued violations of those laws in state court, according to a data analysis by The Virginian-Pilot.

    As in cases where adults supply children with alcohol, neither party is likely to file a complaint.

    Also, the state law says the supplier should have had "good cause" to believe the recipient was a minor, such as their grade in school. That can be hard to prove because private firearms sales are unregulated, and sellers aren't required to ask for identification.

    Catching teens with guns is hardly easier - unless they draw the weapon in public or discharge it, committing a crime more serious than simply possessing a firearm illegally.

    Because teens know the laws, they tend to be careful about showing off their weapons.

    Sometimes, they keep the secret from their friends. They almost always try to conceal it from their parents, hiding guns in cars, closets, heating vents, "cuts" in the yard.

    Ricks said he doesn't know how authorities could make firearms less attractive to teens - too many have them already.

    Most say they need a gun for protection. As Ricks said, "It's more dangerous when you don't have one."

    Pilot writers Janie Bryant and Shawn Day contributed to this report.

    Amy Jeter, (757) 446-2730,

    Kristin Davis, (757) 222-5208,
    He wore his gun outside his pants for all the honest world to see. Pancho & Lefty

    The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us....There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! ...The war is inevitableand let it come! I repeat it, Sir, let it come . PATRICK HENRY speech 1776

  2. #2
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    Arlington, Virginia, USA

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    This sounds exactly the same as a story I read awhile back about access to guns in the UK. Apparently in the UK guns are also "cheap, available and everywhere" for criminals. The only difference there is that law-abiding citizens are defenseless.

  3. #3
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    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

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    I read this on yahoo news the other day and was rather disgusted with it. They make it sound as if guns grow on trees and under ever rock.

    At least they said much of the recovered stolen guns came from NC. Eat your heart out Bloomburg its NC not VA that NYC is getting its guns from.
    AD1(AW) USN (ACT) 12/07/1997-10/02/2011
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  4. #4
    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    Most historic town in, Virginia, USA

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    Davieon Riden said he bought his first gun for $50 or $60 - money he earned from an off-the-books job detailing cars. He was 12.
    This is funny... "off-the-books..." I guess they want to make him sound even more criminal than he already is... I suppose I made several hundred dollars every summer when I was a teenager as an "off-the-books" lawn mower!

    ::gasp:: Please don't turn me in!!!


  5. #5
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    Mechanicsville, Virginia, USA

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    TFred wrote:
    Davieon Riden said he bought his first gun for $50 or $60 - money he earned from an off-the-books job detailing cars. He was 12.
    This is funny... "off-the-books..." I guess they want to make him sound even more criminal than he already is... I suppose I made several hundred dollars every summer when I was a teenager as an "off-the-books" lawn mower!

    ::gasp:: Please don't turn me in!!!


    No need to Fred, you just did it yourself!

    Here's the wall for you.

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