Illinois sees more gun trafficking from Indiana, crime data shows

By Ashley Hackett
Medill Reports

Gun regulations in Illinois have become more strict over the past five years, and guns used in Illinois crimes are coming increasingly from outside the state, a recent study shows.

Nearly 3,460 people were shot in Chicago in 2017, and the city saw 664 murders plus seven people killed by on-duty Chicago Police officers that year, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Michael Coates, a doctoral candidate studying American politics at the University of Maryland, co-authored a 2017 study examining state gun control policies. Coates concluded that guns linked to crime scenes are “more likely to be purchased in states with less regulatory barriers when a state increases the stringency of its gun control laws,” so the supply market will shift out of state.

Coates and his co-author Shanna Pearson‐Merkowitz, a professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island, chose to examine Illinois in their study titled “Policy Spillover and Gun Migration: The Interstate Dynamics of State Gun Control Policies.” The journal Social Science Quarterly published the study in June 2017.

Illinois has a particularly volatile gun trafficking relationship with neighboring states. It’s bordered by states that lack comprehensive firearms regulations, with particularly little oversight of secondary sales markets.

“Indiana is significantly less regulated than Illinois, scoring only a 4 on the regulation scale to Illinois’ 26, and the two share a substantial border,” the authors wrote in their 2017 study. The regulation scale refers to the Brady Campaign’s ranking of state gun control policies,  in which a higher number refers to stronger gun regulations. Scores can range from 0 for little to no control up to 84 for states with the most regulated firearms.

In recent years, the proportion of guns involved in Illinois crimes that come from out of state has increased, particularly guns coming from neighboring Indiana.

The increase in guns coming from neighboring states could be a result of stricter gun regulations within Illinois, but Coates said he believes it may have more to do with the way that data is collected.

“The trace data is only available for those guns the police chose to trace, so an increase in scrutiny from law enforcement could correlate with an increase to traces of the kinds of weapons that tend to be trafficked,” Coates said.

More crime guns purchased outside of Illinois come from Indiana compared to any other state in 2017, with 1,623 coming from Indiana compared to the next highest purchase number in Wisconsin with 429.   The data comes from  the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Photo at top: Illinois is surrounded by states with weaker gun regulations, making it easier to traffic guns from nearby states. The map above shiws the puchase state of guns used in Illinois crimes in 2017, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (Mapping from data analysis by Ashley Hackett/Medill.)