The NBC10 Investigators take you into the world of illegal gun sales and the destruction it causes families.
For weeks, investigative reporter Harry Hairston sifted through data and sat down with those responsible for getting illegal guns off the streets. Use the interactive map above to see how gun violence is impacting the city of Philadelphia, neighborhood by neighborhood.
Michael Hagan, Jr. loved Philadelphia.
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“Michael loved the city, the vibrancy of it," remembers his father, Michael Hagan, Sr.
But a bullet would take 32-year-old Michael's life in the early morning of July 1st 2012.
"Our lives, at that moment changed forever,” said Michael’s, mother, Carol Hagan.
Shot dead on 4th Street, Hagan’s body was left on a sidewalk. His killer has never been found.[[367772031, C]]
“Somebody killed my son for a few dollars. Couldn’t he have just robbed him and let him live? That’s how bad these guys are. They don’t have respect for life," said Hagan, Sr.
His son was one of 285 homicide victims by firearm in 2012.
That number went down to 198 in 2013, up in 2014 to 207 and rose again last year to 233.
Authorities believe many of these homicides — and other gun crimes — were committed with illegal firearms.
"I like to think that when I purchase a gun from a criminal or someone else that shouldn't have it, then I'm saving a life," an undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ATF tells hairston.
In an exclusive interview, the undercover agent shared some of his experience buying undercover guns.
"I've gone into homes where it's like an open flea market, where you had 15, 20 guns spread out on the table and he had 10, 11 people were there — everyone buying or purchasing the guns," the agent said.
The ATF agent tells us guns are being sold in every single neighborhood. According to federal agents, some of the illegal sales are done in cars, out in the open on a neighborhood street and even at a business in Center City.
The undercover agent says he stumbled upon the owner of a barber shop in the 1100 block of Chestnut who was illegally selling assault rifles.
“In the basement, there was a shooting range," the agent said. The business is now replaced by new construction.
The most recent ATF report from 2014 shows in Pennsylvania, the feds recovered 8,929 illegal guns. One third of those — 3,187 — were found in philadlephia.
Sam Rabadi, the special agent in charge of Philadelphia's ATF field office, tells us at least half the guns on the black market in Philly are stolen or from straw purchases in Pennsylvania.
The other half comesup I-95 from states in the South. Law enforcement calls that stretch of interstate The Iron Pipe Line.
Drugs from Philly are taken down South and traded for guns where illegal purchasing is easier, Rabadi said.
In just the last three years there have been more than 19,200 crimes using firearms, according to Philly police.
Authorities were unable to tell us how many illegal guns were involved in these crimes — and the ATF says illegal guns keep coming to town.
"It's constant. It seems like it's never ending. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle, like we are never going to win the battle," said the undercover agent.
That outlook frustrates Hagan’s mother.
"It makes you sad and angry that it just keeps happening over and over again and that these guns are out on the street,” she said.
Since Hagan’s murder, his family is determined his death not be in vain. They tell us they are working to make the city safer by speaking out against illegal guns — and pushing for tougher sentencing.
“When you lose one of your children to gun violence it, you know, it never heals. It just don’t.”