By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Of the 69 homicides in Minneapolis and St. Paul this year, 59 of them happened with a gun.

So, where are these guns coming from? Good Question.

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“These firearms come from a lot of different sources,” said Terry Henderson, special agent in charge of the St. Paul Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “The majority come from right here in the state of Minnesota.”

According to Henderson, the most common way is people steal the firearms by breaking into homes and cars.

“It enters the black market, and once that happens, it falls into the hands of criminals,” Henderson said.

Other times, the person who legally purchased the gun commits the gun-related crime.

A third way are straw purchases, where a person with no or little criminal history who can pass the background check buys the firearm. That person then gives it or sells it to someone else whose intent it to commit a crime.

“Sometimes, it’s monetary,” Henderson said. “Sometimes it’s relationship-driven.”

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In September, Sequana Cigolo was charged with buying a 9mm pistol in Robbinsdale, then selling it to Jason Winston for $250. Winston, a convicted felon who is Cignolo’s ex-boyfriend’s cousin, was charged as well. Police say that gun was later used by another man to shoot three people, including a police officer in Chicago.

Both the ATF and U.S. Attorney’s Office are working with the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments to help trace the firearms.

In 2018, the ATF traced 3,909 firearms that were recovered in Minnesota. To trace a firearm, it’s first recovered by law enforcement. They send it that firearm’s information to the National Tracing Center, which can tell them the gun’s manufacturer. From there, the manufacturer knows where the firearm was bought. The dealer can then tell authorities who bought the gun.

Law enforcement then uses that information as a lead to finding out who committed the crime.

“While there are multiple sources and multiple ways that these guns end up in the hands of criminals, the most important thing is that we in law enforcement can’t do this along,” Henderson said. “We need the communities help.”

He asks that if people in the community hear or see something, tell authorities.

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“We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure the people of St. Paul and Minneapolis do not have to continue with this surge of violent crime that they’re seeing,” he said.

Heather Brown