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Illinois, Indiana big source of guns used in Chicago crimes, say cops

MAP: Where guns came from

MAP: Where the guns came from

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Updated: November 11, 2012 6:09AM

After Chicago Police officers confiscated 125 guns in a series of citywide stings in late August, the department went to work investigating the path each weapon took from store to street.

Of the firearms recovered over that weekend, 93 had legible serial numbers needed to conduct an ownership trace through the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Crooks often obliterate serial numbers on guns to foil investigators.

Authorities were able to trace 54 of those guns to their original point of sale. Thirty percent were from Indiana, 26 percent from Illinois and 6 percent from Kentucky, the analysis found. Most of the Indiana guns were bought in the northwest part of the state.

Investigators wanted to know how many of those guns were recovered less than 1,000 days after they were first sold. Authorities call those “short time-to-crime” guns.

Of those nine guns, four came from Illinois, three from Indiana, one from Kentucky and one from Arkansas. Six of the guns were recovered from the original buyer.

That was surprising because authorities believe many short time-to-crime guns come from “straw purchasers.”

Straw purchasers are people who can legally buy weapons, then supply them to people who are barred from buying guns.

The police analysis reinforced key findings of a University of Chicago Crime Lab study completed earlier this year.

The U of C study found that most guns recovered in crimes in Chicago come from Illinois and Indiana stores.

There have been highly publicized federal cases involving guns being illegally transported from southern states like Mississippi to Chicago in recent years.

But the police analysis of the August stings showed the guns traced to Indiana and Illinois stores far outnumbered the guns from a total of eight southern states.

“It’s not about an ‘iron pipeline’ from the South,” police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Tuesday. “Cook County is our primary source.”

The police analysis found at least four of the 125 recovered guns were stolen from gun stores.

One gun was snatched from Maxon Shooters Supplies & Indoor Range in northwest suburban Des Plaines, where at least 140 guns were stolen in January. Several suspects face charges in that burglary.

The suspected burglars were members of the Gangster Disciples street gang — and many of the stolen guns wound up in the hands of gang members in Englewood on the South Side, police said.

The three other stolen guns were taken from firearms dealers in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, police learned.

The guns in the Chicago Police Department analysis were confiscated during a weekend citywide sting from Aug. 23 to Aug. 26.

The operation targeted drug dealers in 10 police districts in Chicago. More than 300 people were arrested. Many of them were charged with unlawful use of a weapon — a gun possession violation, said Nicholas Roti, chief of the police Organized Crime Bureau.

The fact that authorities were able to trace the ownership of less than half of the seized guns shows the difficulty of investigating how firearms hit the streets in Chicago, McCarthy said.

Still, the department tries to determine the ownership trail of every one of the thousands of guns officers seize in Chicago every year.

To combat the problem of straw purchasing, McCarthy is proposing a law that would require gun owners in Illinois to file a report with the police every time one of their firearms is stolen, transferred or sold. So far, though, no one is sponsoring such a measure in the General Assembly, he said.

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