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More Teens Are Getting Illegal Guns, ATF Says

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - More than two dozen teenagers have lost their lives to gun violence in Allegheny County this year. The reason? More and more young people are getting their hands on guns.

No one knows the pain of gun violence like a mother who has lost a child to homicide.

"I can't find the words and then I share that pain with other mothers throughout Pittsburgh and throughout the world," said Tina Ford.

After her son Armani was murdered in Clairton two years ago, Tina Ford founded Mothers of Murdered Sons — part support group, part advocates for community engagement to stem youth violence and get guns off the street.

"We have to do better. It takes a village. I really believe that," she said.

So far this year, 25 teenagers have been murdered in Allegheny County as gun seizures and juvenile arrests show more and more young people are in illegal possession of firearms. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has formed a firearm trafficking unit with the city police to try to stem the flow of guns into the region.

Resident Agent in Charge Lou Weiers says it starts with gun owners securing their guns.

"The biggest thing right now is responsible gun ownership, securing your firearm when it's not under your immediate control," Weiers said.

The ATF says young people are getting their guns from three primary sources.

"The majority of the firearms that 17 year olds have seem to be coming out of the stolen gun bucket," Weiers said, unsecured, unattended guns stolen from cars and homes.

The ATF and the city are urging the public to use gun safes and gun locks to keep the guns out of the hands of thieves who then resell to teenagers and others.

"The second bucket would be the illegally purchased guns. Guns that were purchased for someone else," Weiers said.

The police are cracking down on so-called straw purchasers, several of whom are now facing federal charges and lengthy sentences for thwarting gun laws.

"Then we have the personally made firearms creeping up in our area. The public knows it as a ghost gun," he said.

More and more police are seeing these ghost guns, whose separate parts are purchased over the internet and assembled at home and are virtually untraceable on the street.

"Internet, social media. These kids are resourceful, they know who can get them what when they need it, no matter how old they are," said trauma counselor and interventionist Dr. Staci Ford.

But law enforcement can only do so much, and Staci Ford says it will take a community wide response.

"The mindset has to change, our homes and the support we give to these youth has to change. We have to change overall," she said.


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