The most common semiautomatic handgun seized on the streets of Minneapolis is the Hi-Point C-9, a weapon that’s also one of the nation’s most controversial. Nationally, it has been the gun with the fastest “time-to-crime” of any firearm used by youth ages 18 to 24, according to a 2002 report published by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The report found that a C-9 used in a crime typically had been purchased one year earlier, a measure of the buyer’s intent when purchasing the firearm.
“They’re cheap and they get passed around,” and they’re easily concealable, said Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit focused on gun violence prevention. “They are just the perfect crime gun.”
Hi-Point Firearms, based in Mansfield, Ohio, declined a request for comment from the Star Tribune. Over the years, the company has been lauded by some law enforcement agencies for printing hidden serial numbers and other features that make their products easy to trace.
The guns are distributed by MKS Supply of Dayton, Ohio. The president of MKS, Charles Brown, was the supplier to a straw buyer in a series of purchases made in 2000 and documented by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. In that case, Brown sold more than 140 Hi-Point semiautomatic pistols to a gun trafficker and his straw purchaser, court records show. The trafficker eventually went to prison for seven years. Brown was not charged with any crime.
Asked for comment, Brown sent a short e-mail to the Star Tribune saying, “There is much more to this story.” He did not elaborate.
The Brady Center argues that Brown should have known the sales were illegal. They were high-volume purchases of the same make and model, paid for in cash, and used a second person (the trafficker’s girlfriend) to fill out the paperwork in which she said she was the purchaser.
One of the guns sold in that scheme was used to injure Daniel Williams of Buffalo, N.Y., in 2003. Williams, an NCAA Division I basketball prospect, was mistaken for a gang rival and shot in the stomach. His family has sued Hi-Point Firearms and MKS for making the gun available to the criminal who shot Williams.
MATT MCKINNEY and MAYA RAO