The VIPER unit of DeKalb’s district attorney’s office destroyed 115 firearms on Dec. 17 that had been used in a variety of crimes. “It is particularly reassuring to know that the firearms we destroyed will never again be used for criminal activity,” said DeKalb District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming.
VIPER stands for Victim/Witness Incident Protection Emergency Response. Fleming’s office established the unit in 2007 to protect victims and witnesses who need to appear in court. Destruction of the firearms is “one of the many significant contributions” of the unit toward protecting DeKalb residents, Fleming said.
None of the weapons were voluntarily turned in. Authorities confiscated the weapons, which were used in the commission of felonies, including aggravated assaults, homicides and armed robberies, while gathering evidence.
A recycler with equipment that renders the firearms totally unusable destroyed the weapons, eliminating the possibility that they will enter the illegal firearms trade.
A 2008 report, titled “The Movement of Illegal Guns in America,” placed Georgia on the list of 10 states responsible for the bulk of illegal guns shipped across state lines for use in crimes. The coalition of more than 300 mayors, including Atlanta’s then-Mayor Shirley Franklin, produced the report—based on statistics from federal agencies.
It reports that federal agents traced about 30 percent of the guns used in crimes in 2006 and 2007 to gun dealers in states other than the one in which the crime occurred. The group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, blames lax gun laws in some states for the trafficking of illegal guns.
They are particularly critical of so-called gun show loopholes in some states that allow individuals to purchase firearms without a background check at gun shows.
New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been one of the most outspoken critics of mostly Southern states that tend to have less restrictive gun laws. In a two-month sting operation, New York sent teams of private investigators posing as gun buyers to stores in five states whose guns had been linked to more than 500 crimes in New York City from 1994 to 2001.
That effort led to a federal lawsuit that named eight Georgia gun dealers among 26 defendants caught in illegal transactions. Two of the gun dealers, located in Augusta, agreed to submit to monitoring by a court-appointed special master as part of a settlement. Under the settlement, the gun dealers agreed to provide records, undergo video monitoring and take special training in conducting legal sales.
One of the dealers named in the 2006 suit, Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna, filed a countersuit. But in September 2009, a Cobb County judge dismissed the countersuit. New York argued that the gun dealer’s suit violated Georgia’s anti-SLAPP law. The Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation statute bans the filing of lawsuits for the sole purpose of silencing criticism. The judge found that the dealer failed to prove that his suit sought justice rather than to quiet his New York critics.
Before destroying the 115 firearms, Fleming’s office said forensic testing revealed that the guns matched closed cases and had not been identified as evidence in any unsolved criminal cases.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Decatur ranks second—behind Atlanta—as one of the top 10 Georgia cities where the bureau recovered firearms in 2008. Lithonia and Stone Mountain were also on the list.