By Ashley Hackett
Ten Chicago area gun shops and sporting goods stores sold the most guns that were involved in Chicago crimes during the years 2013-2016, according to a report from the Chicago Police Department and the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Chuck’s Gun Shop, located in Riverdale, sold nearly 1,000 of the 3,389 guns tied to the crimes and traced to the 10 stories during that three-year span, according to the 2017 report.
More than 393 million civilian-owned firearms are in circulation in the United States—enough for every American man, woman and child to own one and still have 67 million guns left over, according to the global Small Arms Survey.
Chuck’s Gun Shop owner John Riggio declined to comment about why the store had sold such a high number of the guns involved in crimes.
Midwest Sporting Goods owner Noel offered his own theories. “That report is to basically place blame on us for things that CPD can’t control. They want to prevent people from buying guns, but we want to keep people’s rights to keep guns.” Noel declined to give his last name.
The state of Illinois requires all firearm purchasers to obtain a permit, issued after a background check, in order to buy any firearm. However, Chicago faces a unique predicament in enforcement efforts against gun trafficking: Illinois is bordered by states that lack comprehensive firearms regulations, with particularly little oversight of secondary sales markets.
Missouri does not require any permit, registration, or background checks, while Indiana, a big source of guns for Chicago, does not require registration or background checks for its gun sales. Guns purchased out-of-state can then easily be resold in Chicago and change hands without regulation.
“This is one of the reasons why we cannot just think about local gun laws and gun restrictions,” said Andrew Papachristos, a Northwestern sociology professor who specializes in the study of gun violence, police misconduct, and illegal gun markets. “People will throw Chicago under the bus on this issue, but forget that Indiana is literally across the street.”
Three of the ‘top ten’ gun shops depicted in the map above are in Indiana, showing that inter-state gun mobility plays a role in Chicago crimes.
“[Indiana] is a cash and carry state, so no matter what Chicago does as a city, we have to consider proximity to other low regulation states because that is a source of guns” Papachristos said. “You can’t regulate Indiana from Illinois. So you have to think about the solutions, either regional or federal, that might address some of those issues in ways that you just can’t with a local ordinance.”
In 2017 alone, 3,457 people were reportedly shot in Chicago. According to data compiled by the Chicago Sun-Times, the city saw 664 murders plus seven people shot dead by on-duty Chicago Police officers.
The reason for Chicago’s violent track record has a lot to do with the sheer volume of guns in circulation according to Craig Garthwaite, the Herman R. Smith research professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management
“At a high level, to have a murder happen what you need is two things,” Garthwaite said. “First, you need an altercation that’s going to escalate to violence, and the second is you need a means for that violence to become lethal.”
After the boom of crack cocaine and the influx of guns in the 1980s, Garthwaite said that people—particularly young black males—were “far more likely to carry guns, which means that regular altercations that might have been just normal violence before escalated to lethality.”