12 INVESTIGATES: Richmond's "hottest" guns

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Curtis Hicks knows better than most what an illegal weapon in the wrong hands can do.

"We were closing up to go walk to our cars in the evening. There was a gentleman waiting in ambush for the pharmacist," said Hicks.

North Avenue and Brookland Park Boulevard in the 70's...  He walks into the middle of an armed robbery and accidentally spooks the robber. The guy opened fire and Hicks almost lost his right arm.

"The guys getting out of the ambulance said we don't have to hurry with this one he won't make it. It was that much blood on the ground," said Hicks.

The irony isn't lost on Hicks - 35 years later, he works in a gun store, selling some of the same types of guns criminals in Richmond are trying to get.

In a city where the murder rate has always been the benchmark for violence, there's another number that lingers: 165 people shot on the city's streets last year.

"A shooting by a fraction of an inch we could be talking about a whole different category," said Major Steve Drew with the Richmond Police.

We obtained a list of all the firearms used in the city's most violent crime over the last two years.

And three guns stand out as the most common: the 9 millimeter, the 40 caliber, the 38 special.

No rifles, no automatics, just handguns.

"Easy to conceal, pass along, hide in certain places," said Major Drew.

We brought our findings to the Colonial Shooting Academy- to Curtis Hicks.

"That's the most common caliber world wide," he tells us of the 9mm. He wasn't surprised to see what crime guns topped the list. "It is the most popular center fire cartridge. It's been in the US since pre-World War I."

He says the 9mm is the least expensive to shoot- the ammo is cheapest. He's always on the lookout for people trying to get guns illegally.

"They'll find one person that's legal to buy, to try to set up to buy for somebody else is something we're very vigilant at looking at," said Hicks.

All those years ago, Hicks shooter got away, shaping his firm beliefs of today.

"This does nothing on its own," he says of a handgun. "If people have respect for what this will do and have respect for one another we'll have much less trouble."

Richmond Police tell us they get around 800 guns a year off the city's streets. Of those weapons taken in arrests, search warrants or traffic stops, 30% are stolen from law-abiding citizens.

They remind everyone, lock your guns up and don't leave them in your car. Keep them safe.