There are no gun shops in Chicago -- but the city is inundated with firearms.
Chicago does not have the highest per capita murder rate in the country -- usually that falls to Baltimore or St. Louis. That said, Chicago becomes the focal point of the national gun debate.
"Look at Chicago," some say. "It has one of the strictest gun laws in the country but it has a lot of gun violence."
The reality is this: According to reports issued by both Chicago law enforcement and the FBI, many guns used in crimes come from other jurisdictions. About six in ten “crime guns” seized by Chicago Police Dept. originated from gun shops outside of Illinois, according to a 2017 report issued by the department. Crime guns are defined by law enforcement as those that are “illegally possessed, used, or suspected to be used in furtherance of a crime.”
In about 95 percent of cases, the person found in possession of a crime gun is not the original purchaser of the weapon, the report said.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ranks Illinois’ gun laws as the eighth toughest in the country. The state requires citizens to have a permit to buy firearms and to report stolen or lost guns. Residents who want to sell their guns privately are also required to solicit a background check from state officials and to submit documentation of the sale.
No such laws exist in neighboring states such as Indiana, making them a target for traffickers seeking to sell weapons on the black market in Chicago.
About 21 percent of guns confiscated by police in Chicago are traced back to gun shops across the border in Indiana, a short drive from the city.
After conducting gun offender surveys and crime analysis, the CPD concluded that “states with lax gun laws like Indiana and Mississippi are a primary target for gang members and their gun trafficker source buyers.”
The CPD’s report identifies a number of specific gun shops in Indiana and the suburbs of Illinois that supply the largest number of guns that end up being seized by police.
Robberies of gun shops also play a small role in supplying the guns on Chicago’s black market. According to a report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 280 guns were stolen from licensed dealers in Illinois in 2016, and 197 were stolen in Indiana. But even if all 477 of these guns ended up on the streets of Chicago, they would only account for a small fraction of over 6,000 guns seized by police that year.
So, the next time someone mentions Chicago, its gun laws and gun violence, you can educate them about the reality of the situation.