The Iron Pipeline: Gun trafficking in the United States


Every time law enforcement breaks up one illegal gun running ring, more people are standing by to move weapons from Georgia up the Eastern seaboard.

It's called the Iron Pipeline and criminals in Georgia are literally making a killing at it.

New York's gun laws are some of the toughest in the U.S.-- polar opposite of the state of Georgia. [Georgia Gun Laws]

Michael Bassier, recently indicted as a gun running ring leader, openly mocked Georgia's gun laws on law enforcement wiretaps.

"I'm selling them the right way and the wrong way. When I'm out of state, like in Atlanta and Georgia and all that, it's all legal, it's fully legal. But New York, it's completely illegal. So when I bring s*** up here and sell it up here, that's illegal," said Bassier on a wiretap.

But it's also big money and, according to Brooklyn, New York District Attorney Ken Thompson, it's blood money.

"These folks are merchants of death," said Thompson.

Thompson said Bassier made more than $100,000 using straw purchases to buy cheap guns at several hundred dollars each in the Atlanta area.

He then flipped some for more than $1,000 per weapon in the state of New York. Some guns, too often, end up in the hands of criminals who intend to kill.

"These guns are being used to kill our children and to murder our police officers," said Thompson. "New York city police officers were murdered with guns that originated from the state of Georgia. That is outrageous."

Three members of the NYPD were killed in the last 11 months alone - officers Wenjian Liu, Rafael Ramos, and Brian Moore - all killed with Georgia guns.

Two weeks ago, a fourth officer - Randolph Holder - was also killed in the line of duty. That weapon was traced to neighboring South Carolina.

South Carolina and Georgia have deep routes in the Iron Pipeline. Gun runners load up in Southern states with lax gun laws. It's something President Barack Obama has talked about repeatedly.

"It is easier in some communities to find a gun than it is to find some fresh vegetables at a supermarket - that's just a fact," said President Obama at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference.

According to Thompson, in 2013 Georgia took the top spot in the country for guns found at crime scenes - around 3,000.

But how are so many weapons being moved so quickly with deadly consequences? Some are carried from Interstate 85 to Interstate 95 into New York.

The other might shock you - planes - until a December 2014 bust at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport closed a loophole allowing a then Delta employee to bypass Transportation Security Administration checkpoints smuggling the weapons.

But more recently, criminals are moving them on cheap buses where security is loose. It's so easy and enticing, some unlikely perpetrators are now getting in on the gun running.

"What we're seeing are folks who have never been arrested before, who have no criminal record, are buying these guns as store purchases whether they be in Atlanta or Pittsburgh. So we have young people who ought to know better, who think they can make a quick buck by buying guns legally," said Thompson.

Busting gun runners has become a never ending task. Thompson said he an other district attorneys throughout the country are collaborating more and more.

"I had a conversation with DA [Paul] Howard a week ago in New York and we talked about the gun violence that is happening around the country and the need to work together to stop the easy access to guns in places like Georgia, and Virginia and other Southern states," said Thompson.

But realistically, how much can a local prosecutor do to shutdown the massive Iron Pipeline? You may be surprised to learn there are no federal gun trafficking laws.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said even if we take illegal guns off the street, under Georgia law they have to return them or make them available to the public.

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