TULSA, Okla. - When it comes to gun violence, Tulsa is not a stranger, especially when it relates to violent crime.
In 2017, 58 out of 81 homicides resulted from firearms.
According to Tulsa Police lead homicide sergeant, Dave Walker, in some of the cases, the guns have been stolen and were in possession of people who were not legally allowed to have one.
Sgt. Walker says very seldom are guns recovered from the scene of a crime, like in the case of the Fairmont Terrace murders in January 2013. Investigators never found the murder weapon.
Four women were shot execution style with their hands tied behind their backs. The men behind the murder, two brothers Cedric and James Poore, are now serving life in prison.
The oldest one, Cedric Poore, had six prior felony convictions at the time of the shooting. Legally, he wasn't supposed to have a gun or be around one.
"It's every day that somebody is being arrested for felony possession of a firearm," says special agent Justin Demaree with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Special agent Demaree in charge in the Tulsa Field Office.
He says they work closely with local law enforcement, like Tulsa Police, to investigate violators of law related to firearms and to ensure that guns don't get in the hands of the wrong people.
Even those prohibited to have a firearm, including convicted felons, domestic abusers and those adjudicated as mentally incompetent to own a gun, still find ways.
"There's no legal way for them to get it because... they've lied on a form, they've stolen it, they've lied to whoever they got it from," says special agent Demaree.
He says the majority of times, prohibited possessors steal the weapons, but they also get their hands on them through straw purchases, in which they use another person to legally purchase a gun on their behalf.
"What we try to do is watch body language of people," adds David Stone, the owner of Dong's Guns Ammo and Reloading, "He can't have a gun, so he brings in his girlfriend or some girl he met on the street to come do the paperwork for him."
In his 27 years of running the Tulsa store, Stone explains he has learned how to detect red flags. When a person interested in buying a gun refuses to fill out a form to do a background check, then he knows something's up.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) background check is meant to be the first deterrent to keep firearms away from somebody who shouldn't be in possession of them, but sometimes that fails.
More than 1.5 million checks have been denied by the FBI in the past 10 years.
"They only have three days before that gun can be released if they figured out that person is prohibited. If the gun store released the gun to the person, and they find out later that they're prohibited, that case is referred to ATF," says special agent Demaree.
That's just one piece of the puzzle. Prohibited possessor are also getting their hands on guns through private party sales, in which no background check is required.
"We do see cases where guns are purchased here that are headed to Mexico or other places. We're not that close to the border, but we do see it with all the gun shows and the way it's easy to get them," says special agent Demaree.
This keeps agents like Demaree busy in the state. They're constantly tracing guns to find out where they came from, in order to seize weapons from dangerous individuals.
If an investigation leads agents to a successful trace of the weapon and recovery, the job doesn't stop there.
"I can tell you federally here in Tulsa, we have a very aggressive attorney's office who takes a hard stance on violent crime and illegal possessors," says special agent Demaree.
A convicted felon in possession of a firearm can be punished up to 10 years in prison. For special agent Demaree and gun store owner, Stone, the fight to keep guns away from individuals who aren't allowed to legally be in possession of one is not only a priority, but a civic duty.
While the gun that was used to kill the four women at the Fairmont Terrace Apartments may never be found, there is no way to ever know how the Poore brothers even got the murder weapon to begin with.
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