Local agencies join forces to track down illegal guns in Southwest Virginia

Guns seized by ATF agents in the Roanoke Valley.
Guns seized by ATF agents in the Roanoke Valley. (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE (WSLS) - Illegal guns are an issue in Southwest Virginia and nationwide. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, agents traced thousands of weapons to Virginia in 2014. Some of the guns were linked to dangerous crimes.

In 2014, agents recovered more than 7,000 guns in Virginia.
In 2014, agents recovered more than 7,000 guns in Virginia.

Federal agents said illegal guns seized in the Commonwealth were tied to various types of crimes including undercover buys and felons arrested with firearms.

"Illegal firearms and violent offenders are a big issue everywhere," said James Panos, ATF resident agent for the Roanoke field office. "We are seeing it in Roanoke and Southwest Virginia with shootings and homicides and other illegal acts."

Figures from the ATF show that in 2014, agents traced and recovered 7,129 guns in Virginia which included 4,052 pistols, 741 shotguns and 13 machine guns. While some of the weapons were purchased legally, others were obtained unlawfully.

"Other times they are stolen or bought legally and transferred to violent offenders through straw purchases" said Panos.

Panos said agents have stepped up efforts to stop gun trafficking and prevent weapons from getting into the wrong hands.

"We are doing everything from undercover gun buys to investigating homicide that happen in the area," he said.

The ATF has also set up a task force with Roanoke City, Roanoke County, Bedford and other areas. Together, they track the source of illegal guns and work to cut off supplies to criminals.

"We work together to investigate violent crimes in those jurisdictions and present those cases and prosecute the worst of the worst violent offenders" Panos said.

Investigators along with the U.S. Attorney's Office hope to get more illegal guns off the streets and make the Roanoke Valley community safer.