Five people belonging to a gun trafficking ring that brought illegal weapons bought in Knoxville, Tennessee to be sold in Queens are facing a litany of criminal charges — city officials announced.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said the men were part of an interstate trafficking operation that funneled guns bought in Knoxville, Tennessee to Queens for sale.
The indictment, unveiled Thursday, charges the men with more than 1,600 counts including criminal sale of a firearm, criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy.
“I want to be very, very clear: this case is not about legally purchased firearms held by law-abiding citizens,” Katz said in a press conference Thursday.
More than 180 weapons were seized over the course of authorities’ investigation, Operation Hotcakes, which lasted 11 months.
The charges come amid widespread anxieties about gun violence in the United States, which New Yorkers have felt palpably in recent months. Among a spate of mass shootings this spring was a racist attack on a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in May that killed 10 people. The accused gunman is facing federal hate crime charges.
Just a month earlier in New York City, another shooter opened fire on a subway car in Brooklyn, leaving more than 20 people injured, 10 of whom had been shot. No one died as a result of the shooting.
Amid a wave of gun violence nationwide, New York state’s concealed carry law was struck down by the Supreme Court in June, prompting a flurry of state legislation to strengthen gun laws. Certain spaces, like schools and Times Square, have been designated as “sensitive locations” where guns are prohibited.
“Gun violence monumentally alters the life of survivors, of victims’ loved ones. Of citizens who are too traumatized to take their children to the park, to take an evening walk with their elderly parents, or to enjoy a night on the town with friends,” Katz added.
Two of the men arrested are from Queens, while another two are from the Bronx, according to the DA’s office. One of the people accused is from Tennessee and is awaiting extradition. Most of the defendants face up to 50 years in prison if convicted.