Nearly 60 percent of guns recovered in Chicago come from out-of-state dealers, with more than 20 percent traced back to Indiana, according to a newly-released report.

The Chicago Police Department, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the University of Chicago Crime Lab unveiled Sunday the findings of their 2017 Gun Trace Report, a study that analyzed crimes between 2013 and 2016 to better understand where guns in Chicago come from, and to develop impactful solutions to address the root causes of the city’s violence.

Chicago police recovered nearly 7,000 firearms that were used or suspected of being used in a crime each year – far outnumbering other major metropolitan areas, according to the report. When adjusted for population, authorities in Chicago recovered six times as many guns per capita as their counterparts in New York City and 1.5 times as many as in Los Angeles.

Just 10 federally licensed firearms dealers (seven in Illinois and three in northwest Indiana) sold nearly a quarter of the guns recovered in Chicago, the research also showed. The top two locations – Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale and Midwest Sporting Goods in Lyons – have been the source of a disproportionate number of weapons for the better part of a decade, according to the report, providing a combined 11.2 percent of all crime guns recovered in Chicago.

The rest of the top 10 sources included, in order: Westforth Sports in Gary, Indiana, Cabela’s in Hammond, Indiana, Shore Galleries in Lincolnwood, GAT Guns in East Dundee, Suburban Sporting Goods in Melrose Park, Pelcher’s Shooter Supply in Lansing, Blythe’s Sport Shop in Griffith, Indiana, and Sporting Arms & Supply in Posen.

Researchers also looked at the amount of time between the initial sale and when the firearm was recovered by law enforcement, with a shorter time indicating an increased likelihood that the gun was purchased by someone other than the possessor, was reported lost or stolen, had an altered serial number, or was otherwise illegally trafficked.

Finding that the amount of time between purchase and recovery varies among the shops, the report points to a village ordinance passed in Lyons in 2015 to make the case that stronger local regulations of gun dealers reduce the number of weapons quickly and illegally entering the market.

The report also underscored the impact policies in other states have on guns trafficked into Chicago.

Sixty percent of firearms recovered by police originated from a dealer outside Illinois, research showed, with one out of every five guns coming from Indiana.

Weapons recovered in Chicago were also traced back to Mississippi, Wisconsin, Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Texas, according to the report.

When it comes to who possesses the city’s illegal guns, the report painted a detailed profile based on statistical patterns.

The majority of firearms recovered after illegal use were handguns: 90 percent, as opposed to rifles and shotguns, data showed.

Roughly 87 percent of weapons were recovered from adults, and while the average age of a criminal possessor was 29 years old, the report said the proportion of juvenile offenders trended upwards over the past four years – from nine percent in 2013 to nearly 13 percent in 2016.

Nearly 92 percent of guns that were traced back to a licensed dealer were the only guns tied to the original buyer’s name – but among individuals who purchased multiple firearms that were eventually recovered, the time between sale and crime decreased significantly enough for researchers to suggest that those buyers may be involved in illegal trafficking.

In a whopping 95 percent of cases where police were able to identify the possessor of a recovered gun, that individual was not the firearm’s original purchaser, the report said, based on records with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Ultimately, the purpose of the report – the second of its kind after the initial 2014 analysis of data from 2009 to 2013 – was to recommend policies and regulations to help combat illegal gun trafficking and associated violent crimes.

To that end, the report identified four major policy proposals to be enacted at the state level, as well as several federal solutions. 

First, the report urges Illinois lawmakers to pass the statewide Gun Dealer Licensing bill they are slated to consider during veto session next week.

The legislation includes a state licensing requirement for gun dealers, as well as the allowance of audits of their inventory, plus background checks and training of gun shop employees.

It would also require the installation of alarms and video surveillance systems, according to the report, to safeguard against the theft of firearms that often end up being illegally trafficked and used in crimes.

Local law enforcement would also be empowered to assist federal authorities in oversight and regulatory duties under the framework established in the Gun Dealer Licensing bill.

The report’s second area of focus is comprehensive background checks on private firearm sales.

Both federal and state law require background checks at licensed dealers, and Illinois also mandates that all sellers, regardless of setting, check a person’s Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card prior to completing the transaction.

However, private sellers are exempt from penalty for failing to verify a buyer’s FOID card ahead of the sale – a policy the report urged lawmakers to address, particularly in light of an audit this year that found that just 30 percent of revoked FOID cards are actually returned to Illinois State Police.

Specifically, the report asks legislators to institute a mandated background check before all firearm sales, and to tie a criminal penalty to all sellers who do not verify a buyer’s FOID card.

Researchers also requested a policy like those in place in states like California and New York, where any private firearm sales are required to be conducted on the premises of a licensed dealer who verifies the legality of the transaction.

Third, the analysis seeks more effective enforcement – plus harsher punishment for violations – of Illinois’ “lost and stolen reporting” law. Currently, the law requires reporting a firearm’s loss or theft “within 72 hours of obtaining knowledge” of the incident, according to the report.

Failure to do so is a petty offense, which researchers said was too lenient – asking that the offense be criminal, eligible for arrest and perhaps the revocation or suspension of the suspect’s FOID card.

Last – but certainly not least, particularly when it comes to complexity – the report calls for a firearms registration system.

In order to aid investigations into crimes, the report said a way to track lawful firearm transfers before a weapon enters the secondary, illegal market would “provide an invaluable tool” to detectives.

Under current federal law, the only record legally required to be kept is that of a weapon’s initial sale with the ATF – making it difficult to trace the path of a gun used in a crime and ultimately identify its owner.

Calling Chicago “uniquely vulnerable to interstate firearms trafficking due to surrounding states with weak regulations,” the report also identified several possible solutions outside Illinois, at the federal level.

Many of those suggestions were set forth in the first iteration of Chicago’s Gun Trace Report in 2014, including a collaborative effort among Midwest law enforcement agencies, an increase in ATF resources, comprehensive background checks on all firearm sales regardless of venue, regulation of online transactions, and more.

You can read the full 2017 Gun Trace Report here:

Published 3 hours ago


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