After the shootings in Newtown, Aurora, Umpqua Community College, Charleston and now Orlando, Chicago gun laws have consistently been used as evidence that gun control does not work. Despite being under Democratic control and having some of the strictest gun laws in the country, Chicago has high homicide rates and incidences of gun violence. For instance, in the same weekend as the Orlando shooting, 36 people were wounded and eight were killed in a string of shootings across Chicago.
While many are quick to flaunt the statistics, one crucial question has generally been ignored: If guns were to be made illegal, how would one get them?
For Chicago residents, go someplace where guns are not illegal: Indiana.
From 2010 to 2014, 3,269 guns taken off Chicago streets were from Indiana, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This accounts for almost one-third of imported guns used in crimes. As the ATF was only able to source 40to 60 percent of firearms in Illinois, the actual numbers could be much higher.
Current private gun sale laws make gun trafficking extremely easy and nearly impossible to police. Private sales of guns in Indiana have no formal method of being recorded, do not require a background check and are cheaper than purchases in Illinois.
While some weapons such as handguns have regulations, there are still major gaps under the current system. For example, although Chicago has a ban on assault rifles, an Indiana resident could leave a gun show with a legally purchased assault rifle without having to undergo a background check. In less than a day, that weapon could be brought back to Chicago and on the streets before nightfall.
What few measures Indiana does have in place are easy to dodge. If you’re an Indiana resident, you only need to provide residential state identification, name and address in case the weapon is used in a crime. Other laws can easily be circumvented through straw purchases, meaning one person buys a gun for someone else.
In one infamous case, a man simply used fake Indiana driver licenses to buy duffel bags of 9mm and 40-caliber handguns to sell for profit in Illinois. In less than 48 hours, he delivered 43 guns to a man with ties to the Gangsters Disciples, a major gang on Chicago’s South Side.
Gun trafficking to states with more restrictive gun legislation is a pattern in several other parts of the country. Over 1,000 guns are trafficked from Arizona into California, according to a 2015 study by the New York Times. On the East Coast, guns from Georgia and Florida are brought into New York and New Jersey on a route known as “The Iron Pipeline”.
The NRA will no doubt try to use this smuggling data as proof that gun regulations should be rolled back to allow for “proper defense.” This would save gun runners gas and further exacerbate Chicago’s woes. Adding more guns to an already violent area will not deter anyone, rather raise the casualty count.
Violence in Chicago has other major factors at play, including socio-economics, gentrification, the prevalence of gangs and organized crime. However, other states need to take a hard look at the effects of their own gun legislation on their neighbors. To say that Chicago’s gun laws have failed is simply victim blaming at its worse and superficial correlation at best.