NEW YORK (PIX11) — Nearly 30 years ago, when a government study tried to estimate the amount of illegal guns circulating in New York City, the figure was put at two million.

Last year, in 2021, the NYPD was able to seize 6,000 of them.

The disparity in the number of illegal weapons that exist in the city — and those that actually get recovered — is staggering.

“Most of the guns are coming up here in bulk,” John Cutter, a retired NYPD Deputy Chief, said.

He was speaking of the I-95 corridor between the southeast and the northern United States known as the “Iron Pipeline.”

“And then, somebody’s selling them out on the street,” Cutter said.

States like Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida are often mentioned prominently when officials speak about the flow of guns from the south to the greater New York area.

“We talk about the south,” Cutter said. “Don’t forget Pennsylvania — Pennsylvania has very lax gun laws, as it relates to the purchase of firearms.”

Ohio is another state that has many weapons being funneled to New York.

PIX11 News decided to take another look at the Iron Pipeline after a second police officer — Wilbert Mora — grievously wounded in a Harlem shooting last Friday evening succumbed to his injuries.

Mora, 27, and his partner, 22-year-old Jason Rivera were both hit in the head at close range with a .45-caliber bullet fired from a Glock 45. 

Rivera died from the lethal wound almost immediately. Mora was pronounced dead on Tuesday at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Lashawn McNeil, the ex-con accused of firing on the two young officers near a back bedroom, was shot by a third officer Friday as he tried to flee and died from his injuries Monday afternoon.

John Cutter said the .45 caliber bullet McNeil was using is a large piece of ammunition.
“When it hits you, it hits you like a brick,” John Cutter said of the ammunition, which is larger than the ones police officers use in their Glock 9mm weapons.

On the PIX11 Morning News Tuesday, Daryl McCormick, assistant special agent in charge of New York’s division of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said his investigators want to trace where McNeil’s weapon traveled after it was reported stolen in Baltimore in 2017.

The Glock had a magazine clipped to the handle that could hold 40 bullets.

“All magazines are the same,” Cutter said, in terms of how they’re attached to the gun.  “They’ll slide up through the handle of the gun.”

As Mayor Eric Adams announces a task force and plans to target 30 police precincts in New York City with the most gun trouble, John Cutter pointed out that “straw buyers” who go south to buy guns remain a challenge for investigators.

“Straw buyers” are people without criminal records who can buy more than one gun in multiple states, and then sell them to people with felony convictions in their background.

Cutter said the controversial “stop, question and frisk” policy that was largely eliminated under former Mayor Bill de Blasio led to many more guns remaining on the streets.

He hopes that plainclothes police teams will return to tackle the gun problem.

Cutter spoke about McNeil’s ability to fire a lot of bullets without re-loading, because of the high-capacity magazine on his gun.

“The reality is: That weapon was designed for killing people,” Cutter said.  “It wasn’t designed for target practice.  It wasn’t designed for hunting.”