WASHINGTON, United States– The US Justice Department announced Monday the arrest of a man on charges of illegally trafficking firearms, in a case underscoring the difficulties American authorities face in preventing guns from ending up in the wrong hands.
Demontre Antwon Hackworth, 31, was charged with legally buying at least 92 guns, mostly handguns, between 2019 and 2021 and reselling them without a license — and therefore without performing background checks on the buyers — US Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference.
Sixteen of the weapons were then used in crimes including homicide, assault and drug trafficking across several US states, as well as in Canada in the year following their resale.
Garland said Hackworth’s arrest illustrates the efforts by his department to tackle gun-trafficking, at a time when the United States has experienced “in recent weeks, mass shooting after mass shooting.”
In May, 10 Black people were killed in a shooting at a New York grocery store, and less than two weeks later 19 children and two teachers were shot and killed at a Texas elementary school.
Those tragedies also brought into focus smaller, but more frequent instances of gun violence across the United States.
Garland added that with the help of specialized units, “we are cracking down on the criminal gun-trafficking pipelines that flood our communities with illegal guns,” citing other recent indictments including a Californian accused of having trafficked 89 weapons, most of them “ghost guns” which do not have a serial number.
“These cases are not easy to investigate or prosecute,” said Chad Meacham, the US attorney for northern Texas who oversaw the investigation leading to Hackworth’s arrest.
“The law enforcement agents literally had to work multiple cases backwards before the identity of someone like this defendant becomes even known,” he said.
The weapons involved in these arrests make up only a mere drop in the United States’ ocean of firearms:
According to the Small Arms Survey project, 393.3 million guns were in circulation among the US civilian population in 2017, or 120 guns for every 100 people in the country.
In 2021, an additional 20 million guns were sold, according to the site Small Arms Analytics, with more than 20,000 firearm homicides recorded the same year by the Gun Violence Archive.