D.C. is awash in illegal guns. Virginia is much to blame.

Guns in storage at District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Bill O'Leary.

So far this bloody year, about 450 people have been hit by gunfire in the nation's capital.

They were executed, injured or they killed themselves, according to the instances gathered by the Gun Violence Archive.

Among the victims: 11-year-old Karon Brown, was shot dead in July; brothers Roy'Ale and Roy'Nal Hill, 12 and 13, were injured in separate attacks. Roy'Nal was left paralyzed. Just this past weekend a 14-year-old girl was wounded by bullets when she bent over to tie her shoe outside a grocery store.

All these guns - Glocks, Barettas, Walthers galore - are seized every year in a city with some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.

That's what the gun folks like to point out, when they argue that gun laws don't work, right?

But the answer, my friends who would prefer not to get shot, is not really in the District of Columbia.

It's in Virginia.

Virginia is the Wild West just one traffic-choked bridge away from America's seat of power. And it's the source of most of the guns that flood D.C. streets.

"Overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly, the guns come from Virginia," said D.C. Council member Charles Allen, a Democrat. "Maryland is number two, but not that many come from there."

There were 538 guns seized in D.C. that came from Virginia in 2017. Last year, it was 599, Allen said. This year, it will be even more.

But good luck with tackling that.

Allen held a hearing on gun violence last week. The agencies responsible for everything that has to do with trafficking guns - the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as the U.S. attorney's office for the District of Columbia - said "no thanks" and didn't testify, despite Allen's requests.

"It's more than frustrating. As a local official I am held accountable by my constituents," he said. "But there is zero accountability when the U.S. attorney's office won't do the council the courtesy of testifying before us."

Remember, the U.S. attorney's office - the place responsible for all prosecution of gun-related crimes in D.C. - is headed by Jesse Liu, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to be the chief prosecutor in the nation's capital.

"The U.S. attorney doesn't answer to us, doesn't represent us," Allen said. "The U.S. attorney represents the Trump administration."

This is the same U.S. attorney who has prosecuted zero hate crimes in D.C., even though the city had a record year for hate in 2018 - with 204 crimes reported.

Spokeswoman Kadia Koroma said the office has sent in testimony, and someone from her office sat in the audience, "which is the same thing."

Not really, Allen said. He didn't get to ask them about prosecutions, trends, what happens to the guns after a case, how they are tracking the trafficking. "It's a black hole," he said.

We're getting a good idea of how they get to D.C., though.

Liu's eastern Virginia counterpart at the U.S. attorney's office, Zachary Terwilliger, is prosecuting the gun runners.

From July to September, the office arrested four separate gun traffickers who bought dozens of guns in the free-for-all that is Virginia, some of which were later seized in D.C.

One of their favorite games is to get women to buy the guns for them.

Joni Maria Metcalf, 34, has been in trouble with the law before, according to the court cases showing she tangled with rent-to-own companies for allegedly keeping furniture she was renting.

So she found a way to earn some cash by buying guns as a straw purchaser for her boyfriend and his friend. She pleaded guilty to this in court last month, after the friend was found with one of the illegal guns in D.C., according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Virginia voters know it's a mess. Coming up to the Nov. 5 election, gun violence is the No. 1 issue for three out of four voters questioned in a Washington Post-Schar School Poll released last week

Of course it is. After the mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building in May and the lingering stain of the Virginia Tech slaughter in 2007, no gun access has been restricted and no governing body has shown that it doesn't give a fig.

When state lawmakers finally announced a huge hearing on gun violence, after the Virginia Beach shooting, hundreds gathered for the historic sessions. They ended it in 90 minutes.

So here's the weird reality.

And it may be controversial to say this, but get in there and influence Virginia's election.

Shout, yell, volunteer with gun safety groups, do everything (but ask Ukraine for help) to convince these residents that they have the power to make their state - and our nation's capital - safer.

It's not the only way to end gun violence, but it is the best way to end the guns.


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