Brittany Horn - Delaware Online
One gun is linked to multiple shootings, and in some cases, homicides.
But the crimes are committed by different people.
That's the difficult situation state prosecutors and law enforcement is facing as one "community gun" is passed among people – sometimes affiliated, sometimes not – to aid them in committing crimes and protecting themselves.
Though state prosecutors and local police say it isn't a new trend, the information from defense attorney Eugene Mauer stunned attendees at the Delaware Gun Violence Forum on Thursday, who gathered to talk about gun issues facing the state.
"They'll buy a gun and they'll keep it in a certain location," he said. "I'm now having cases where one gun is attached to five, six, seven, eight different shootings. So that's becoming popular now so now you don't need as many guns if you get the one good firearm."
The longtime criminal defense attorney said he only started seeing this trend in the last two years, specifically when ballistics reports on recovered guns would link his client to multiple shootings.
In some cases, the gun was linked to as many as eight shootings, Mauer said.
Retired Wilmington Police Lt. Dan Selekman said this creates further issues legally for a person who gets picked up with one of these guns, especially if there are killings linked to the weapon.
"The kid who gets it at the end, the 34th person who's holding it and then gets arrested for it, is now going to be the prime suspect for 34 other crimes," he said.
Imagine the pressure that's going to come down on this person, Selekman asked the crowd to consider, especially when that person may be a young teen who happened to pick up the weapon for protection not knowing about its history.
A.J. Roop, a state prosecutor with the Delaware Department of Justice, said that while the person found with the gun will be – at least, initially – considered a suspect, the investigative process would ideally weed out the wrongly accused individual.
But it does lengthen the investigative process and make more work for police, he said.
Though people have long shared weapons, especially drug dealers, Roop said in recent years the trend has shifted to juveniles. It's not uncommon to see multiple shootings close together all coming back to the same gun, Roop added.
These details of guns linked to multiple shootings don't normally reach the public until trial.
Yet they point to a larger issue at the heart of Delaware's gun violence conversation: the availability and sheer number of guns in communities.
"I've never had a client tell me he had a problem getting a gun," Mauer said.
Murmurs of surprise and concern, even from Sen. Stephanie Hansen, who coordinated the forum, were clear throughout the auditorium.
"The thought that there is actually a group of community guns that are being used is surprising," Hansensaid.