NJ, PA take down gun ring, announce ongoing cooperation

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and his Pennsylvania counterpart on Monday announced that a joint operation had broken up a ring that smuggled semi-automatics and other firearms into Camden.

“Operation Zombie resulted in the recovery of 36 guns, including one identified as the murder weapon in the October shooting in Philadelphia of a 2-year-old as she was in her mother’s arms,” Grewal said.

The ring, comprising five Philadelphia residents, sold six military-style rifles and 10 handguns and two large-capacity magazines in and around Camden starting in March, authorities said. Another 20 guns, including an Uzi equipped with a large magazine, were seized during the arrests of three of the suspects and related searches last week, they added.

Authorities also seized 20 ounces of methamphetamine, the equivalent of 14,000 street doses, and some of the five are also facing drug trafficking charges, they said.

Authorities in New Jersey have long maintained that much of the illegal gun problem in the state, which has among the nation’s most strict gun control laws, is imported from other states. Indeed, the authorities allege that one of the ring members had purchased some weapons by paying straw purchasers to guy guns at dealerships and gun shows in Pennsylvania then reselling them in Camden at a premium — in one case selling an AR-15, a military-style semiautomatic, for $2,200.

Grewal and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro also on Monday unveiled a new ongoing arrangement between the two states to cooperate in the effort to target illegal gun sales.

The PA/NJ Gun Trafficking Initiative will promote the sharing of intelligence at the state level to counteract the illegal gun trade on either side of the Delaware River. Plans call for representatives of agencies in both states to meet to discuss leads that can be explored by the other state. It will operate in conjunction with existing task forces and initiatives in Philadelphia and Camden.

“Every one crime gun is used in an average of about five different criminal activities,” Shapiro said. “And so the more we can share information, the quicker we can track and trace these crime guns, certainly it will help us solve crime faster. But ideally what it will allow us to do is to save lives.”

Last year, Camden had 25 gun homicides. Thus far in Philadelphia this year, there have been 35, authorities report.