Spartanaburg, S.C. (WSPA) – South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia are all in the top ten of states with the highest gun recovery rates.
Last year in those states, nearly 10 guns per every 10,000 people were recovered and traced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Many of these guns are illegal or were used in crimes.
Andre Tate, the pastor of New Life Deliverance Worship Center Eastside, knows the impact of gun violence well.
“I still have a bullet in my back from that lifestyle,” Tate said.
He works with the senior pastor of New Life Deliverance Church, Bunty Desor. Both men are reformed criminals who say they hit rock bottom and gave their lives to Christ. Now, they work trying to save the lives of others in the Upstate.
“We know those guns will have an endless cycle in our community,” Desor said. “It’s a travesty even to have mothers in our church who have lost sons to gun violence.”
Desor said he’s lost count of the number of funerals he’s preached for young people which is why the congregation decided to take action. They held a gun buy back a couple years ago and partnered with the Spartanburg police department and sheriff’s office to get illegal guns off the streets. They would like to hold more and are working on getting the funding to do so. With the gun buy back, people can turn guns in anonymously and receive money for them.
Tate says they collect a lot of hand guns. They even got a sawed off shotgun.
“We’re getting some big guns off the street,” Tate said.
In 2015, 364 guns were recovered in Spartanburg which was the third highest in the state behind North Charleston and Pageland. In Anderson, police recovered 134 guns, and there were 67 recoveries in Greenville.
In North Carolina, Spindale in Rutherford County had the highest recovery rate in the state followed by Charlotte, according to the ATF.
“The numbers, we won’t apologize for those because the guys and girls at the police department go out on a daily basis,” Major Art Littlejohn with the Spartanburg Police Department said.
He said his department is recovering more guns because they’re finding them. The police department invests resources specifically targeting getting illegal guns off the streets.
“It could be on anything, a shoplifting offense, a marijuana call, a domestic offense, if a person has a gun in their possession that shouldn’t have it, then we remove it,” Littlejohn said.
However, police say most of these guns that end up in the wrong hands come from law abiding citizens.
“People who own guns legally, they have them in their vehicles, and often times we find they leave their vehicles unlocked,” Littlejohn said.
Those guns are stolen and sold.
Last month, a gun shop in Simpsonville was the victim of a smash and grab. Employees said the thieves got away with thousands of dollars’ worth of guns. ATF agents said those guns were definitely used for black market selling.
Willie Logan has spent time in jail and said most of his friends there were doing time for weapons charges. He said getting guns is easy.
“It’s just like trick or treating,” Logan said. “Just sit on the block. If somebody comes up with something, you like it, you get it.
He said black market guns are also cheap, sometimes going for as low as $20.
Last year, there were nearly 4000 guns trafficked from South Carolina across the country to places as far away as California and Puerto Rico.
However, in total, 6,277 recovered guns in 2015 could be traced back to South Carolina.
Most of those were 12 Gauge and 9 mm.
Nearly 3000 of those guns were used in crimes where the person was sentenced to three or more years in prison.
Most guns were found in weapon possession cases or the firearm was under investigation. Homicides and aggravated assaults were the two crimes with the least guns recovered and traced.
The South Carolina Senate held four gun hearings in Greenville, Charleston, Hartsville, and Columbia. They heard from community members on both sides of the gun debate about issues plaguing their communities. The hearings were sparked after the Mother Emanuel Massacre and the mistake that allowed Dylan Roof to purchase a gun.
Senators will start drafting legislation in the next few months based on the feedback they received.