Fairfax County prosecutor pleads for more tools to fight ‘scourge of gun violence’

Fairfax County, Virginia, Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano recently prosecuted a murder case that resulted in a guilty verdict, but he said more resources are necessary to fight gun violence.

“My office has seen far too many cases involving gun violence, especially in the past few weeks,” Descano said. “We need better gun laws to be able to keep our communities safe.”

Descano said Fairfax County, like communities all over the nation, are awash in guns.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have all the tools that we need in our toolbox to really, really get at the scourge of gun violence,” Descano said.

He zeroed in on ghost guns that don’t have serial numbers, or have the serial numbers scratched off, and said that Virginia has gun law loopholes he and others have tried, unsuccessfully, to close.

One of those loopholes pertains to weapons that are untraceable because their serial numbers have been removed or altered.

“The only reason to have a gun that’s untraceable like that is to commit crimes,” he said. “Right now in Virginia, there’s a huge loophole that does not allow prosecutors to prosecute crimes where somebody is carrying a gun with a serial number scratched off. It’s illegal to scratch it off. But in practice, unless you actually catch somebody scratching it off, you can’t prosecute it.”

Descano and his Norfolk counterpart, Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi, helped write a bill last year to make it unlawful to sell, give, distribute or possess any weapon — except for an antique firearm — that has a serial number that has been removed, altered, changed, destroyed or obliterated in any manner.

The measure passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but was left in the public safety committee of the Republican-controlled House.

A second bill that failed would have required manufactures, dealers and distributors to add a number to parts sold in ghost gun kits. Currently, serial numbers are required on finished firearms but not on individual parts.

“As a prosecutor, we do everything that we can to keep our community safe from gun violence … I would hope that our legislators, both state and national, would really take up that charge and give prosecutors like me the tools that we need,” Descano said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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