Black Market, created by the people behind the HBO series Vice, is a series of short documentaries hosted by actor Michael K. Williams. Williams, most notably known for his role as Omar on The Wire, interviews people involved in making money in illicit ways in disadvantaged communities. Episode 3 from Black Market, “Iron Pipeline,” is about the danger and profit of being a gun runner.
While the episode did go to Chicago, most of the episode centered on the ease of buying and selling guns in Atlanta. With lax gun laws in Georgia, stricter laws up north, and just a couple of highways in between, Williams was able to lay a straight path to finding guns in the streets of New York. Gun runners are able to find weapons cheap through stealing or gun shows, and find buyers willing to spend 3-4 times the money to purchase. These are people from poor areas and smaller cities where unemployment is higher. Unfortunately, that life is cheap – illustrated with the death of a Chicago man who told Williams he was scared he was going to die and did later that evening.
Overall, this series is well done and able to use Williams’ celebrity to voyeur into otherwise invisible lives. The subject matter from stolen cars, to gambling, to addiction is eye opening and visually appealing. Whether he speaks to people through ski masks and distorted voices or face to face, he is able to connect to them and convey a level of respect and sympathy that gets people who don’t trust other people to talk.