Chicago "crime guns" (courtesy thetrace.org)

NOTE: Part 2 of this series will discuss the types of “crime guns” in detail. Please hang fire on commenting on the handgun types until that post drops.

“Despite having some of the toughest gun regulations of any city in the country, Chicago continues to record thousands of shootings per year,” Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun agitpropagandists at thetrace,org report. “As President Obama has pointed out, that isn’t a failing of the city’s gun laws. The problem is that most of the guns used in crimes in Chicago come from neighboring states with lax gun laws.” That’s one theory. Here’s another . . .

The supply is not as important as the demand. In other words, as long as there are gang bangers banging in The Windy City, there will be guns with which they can bang. At least The Trace acknowledges the prevalence of these gangs and their importance to their survey:

Between 80 to 85 percent of the city’s homicides are committed with a gun. Of those murders, a “preponderance” are carried out by gang members, according to a 2015 report co-authored by Duke’s Phillip Cook.

The report is chock full of interesting if unreliable detail. But the idea that you can choke off the gangs supply of firearms by “tightening” gun laws in surrounding states is ludicrous. And misguided. But that’s how disarmists roll:

A study released last year by the city found that almost 60 percent of firearms recovered at Chicago crime scenes were first bought in states that do not require background checks for Internet or gun show sales, like neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin. Of the remaining crime guns, nearly half were purchased at three gun shops just outside the city.

Criminals use guns purchased at gun stores, eh? Well not many, apparently. According to this entirely misleading paragraph, gun store purchases account for 50 percent of 40 percent of the guns recovered at Chicago crime scenes. I make that 20 percent of the total – not the lion’s share, to say the least.

What we’re looking at in this case is either straw purchases — people buying guns at a gun store who pass a background check and then transfer the gun to a prohibited person — or guns that were legally purchased and stolen later (not sold to criminals). I wonder why someone like, say, the ATF doesn’t do something about that whole straw purchase business, then.

The Trace’s Sarah Kollmorgan also reports that 60 percent of the recovered guns were purchased in states that do not require background checks at gun shows and the internet. Yes, well, two things.

First, the vast majority of sellers using those venues DO run background checks. Second, this does NOT mean these guns were sold via the Internet or gun shows. According to the DOJ study Firearms Use by Offenders, less than one percent of “crime guns” were purchased at gun shows. A fact only obvious by its absence in Kollmorgan’s post.

One more thing: any gun confiscated by the Chicago police is considered a “crime gun.” Any place they seize an illegally held gun is a “crime scene.” I’d like to know how many firearms were confiscated from people without any criminal record…Chicago residents who bought guns illegally to defend themselves against gang bangers.

They say figures lie and liars figure. When it comes to promoting civilian disarmament, context disappears with a trace. So to speak.

77 Responses to The Trace’s Report on Chicago’s “Crime Guns” (Pt. 1)

  1. Yes I’m sure that Colt Python was purchase over the internet with no background check.

    Those disadvantaged youths in Chicago all have that kind of disposable income.

      • That is a stock image TTAG has used in the past of a gunstore.

        I’m sure that Python is most likely well-loved and locked in a dark gunsafe where the poor Python rarely gets to eat its favorite ammo and speak in short, angry barks…

        • Even if it were a shot of seized guns, what do you think the relative odds are of a confiscated Python being melted down for scrap vs. ending up in some cop’s private collection?

    • yeah you could buy 3 glocks at least for that kinda money. And still have some cash left over for a pile of mags.

    • Yup. Another Python destined for the smelter instead of my gun safe. Makes me sick… the only revolver my wife ever liked…

        • That’s exactly right. On paper…it will be missing or just completely deleted. Asset forfeitures and seizures, the cops get the good stuff. The public auctions is where they cops sell the junk they don’t want for themselves.

    • It’s not the gun model, brand, caliber, state of origin, type of seller, type of weapon, or any of those statistics that leads directly to the source of the problem. One word brings you to the root of the problem.
      Gangs.
      The inner City of Chicago, or any area where violent crime and deaths are highest, has an out of control gang problem. And it’s a very narrow age group too.
      People who sincerely want to address the problem would focus first right there. Everything else is a distant second.

      • Dollars to donuts that Python will suddenly “disappear” in the CPD inventory system… and turn into an unscheduled bonus payment for someone.

        • “At which point it actually will be a “crime” gun.”

          That’s hate speech.

          That poor Python will just be an un-documented gun that yearns to be taken to a gunrange and fed its favorite gunfood.

    • I don’t think we have to worry about an ignominious fate for these handguns. Look at the picture. They are on a BOYT mat, commonly used to display guns. None of them have tags. The dude in the background is packing, and does not look like CPD. I think I see a buttstock in the background (upper left) of the picture, if it is clicked on to the thetrace.org’s site. ALL of the guns are Colts, unlikely with a pile of seized handguns.

      This picture was taken in a gun store or show, not a police lockup.

  2. When identifying a gun as having purchased out of state, do they make a distinction for guns purchased out of state and brought legally into the state by people moving there? The guns in the pics look older, like they may have been originally purchased elsewhere but could have been in Illinois for the past 20 years….

    • Yes, it is called “time to crime,” another figure The Trace does not report. Time to crime is the period from the original purchase to the time the gun is used in a crime (or recovered at s crime scene, whether or not it was used in a crime). For Chicago, I’ve read that it is just north of 8 years, while the national average is closer to 12. Which means that guns have been purchased years previously, stolen, and possibly traded hands several times before they are recovered by police.

  3. Whatever-most “crime” guns are from theft and straw purchase-gal friend, “clean” buddy, or close relative. He!! I’ve witnessed straw buys at Cabelas in Hammond,Indiana-and maybe at the much-maligned Chucks Gun Shop in Riverdale,Illinois. I KNOW Chucks(at least) did NOTHING wrong. Prosecute straw purchase like you mean it. And if you commit a “gun crime” you get a LONG prison sentence. Bring back CHAIN gangs too(never happen). Report on the two teenaged armed robbers on the cities southside-shot to death by an armed liquor store owner in a gun battle-15 & 17…maybe the punks will get the message decent people will fight back. End of rant…

      • Just checked – nope, the Second Amendment does not include any verbiage about how old you have to be before infringement is infringement.

        Good thing, otherwise the government could just raise the age requirement to 80 or so and be done with this whole controversy.

        • Cliff I was referring to the mention of the two teenage gang bangers in water walkers comments. I was being sarcastic about the age thing. See there is no required age for committing a felony, if there was than obviously the two ute’s would have complied because you know …laws.

    • He!! I’ve witnessed straw buys at Cabelas in Hammond,Indiana
      I would think the BATF would go after a big box store and that Cabelas would try to keep their nose clean.

      • Tom I have a friendly “relationship” with a few old guys at the Hammond store. They don’t even ask for my ILL FOID. And they get get NO commission or give a damn. I pointed out an obvious straw sale and one guy said “really? I’ll look in to it…”. Whatever-some of the other Indiana shops are even looser…

  4. If you refuse to address the true, root issue (violent criminals, criminalizing each other violently), then, carried to their logical conclusions, all the antis’ proposals would require either elimination of the second amendment, or evisceration of the fourth amendment.

    Either all the guns, everywhere, must magically disappear, or else the government would have to keep track of every gun, everywhere – meaning that the government would not only need, but have to demand paperwork accountability for every gun, by every gun owner, on an ongoing basis. Otherwise, the violent criminals that you refuse to deal with will continue to find ways to get guns, and do bad things with them.

      • Some of those criminals criminalize with an efficiency that would make a time-and-motion analyst green with envy…

    • Or just build then with parts from the hardware store lie is common in Brazil.

      Gun crime mostly comes from gangs which operate as distribution networks for illegally smuggled narcotics. If they can successfully get narcotics into the country, I don’t think it would be difficult to add some guns to the shipments.

      But addressing only symptoms is the answer, right?

    • Chip,

      “… or else the government would have to keep track of every gun, everywhere …”

      Even that would fail spectacularly because words on a piece of paper cannot stop a straw purchaser from selling their firearms to a “prohibited” person in some back ally … and then reporting the firearms stolen if police ever trace a firearm back to the straw purchaser.

      • That can be overcome rather easily! Just have all firearms checked into government storage! Brilliant, huh? Only remaining problem would be the fellas keeping those guns selling them without any paperwork. Millions and millions of them. No problem, tho, since only criminals would do that.

  5. “Criminals use guns purchased at gun stores, eh? Well not many, apparently. According to this entirely misleading paragraph, gun store purchases account for 50 percent of 40 percent of the guns recovered at Chicago crime scenes. I make that 20 percent of the total – not the lion’s share, to say the least.”

    I think you missed their point. The point The Trace is trying to make is that not many of the guns come from Chicago. 60% come from other states, and 20% (as you pointed out) come from three gun stores “just outside” the city. Their (insane) point is that 80% or so of the guns come from outside Chicago, and therefore the problem exists outside Chicago instead of within it. A mind-boggling excuse for logic, to be sure.

    • There are no gun stores inside Chicago, so of course most of the crime guns come from outside the city.

      Are they trying to make a point by stating the bloody obvious? It proves nothing but simple physical reality.

      • Chicago politicians’ cries that all the crime guns come from “other states with ‘lax’ gun laws” actually weakens their position even further. It demonstrates unequivocally that criminals simply find new distribution channels if something closes one channel.

  6. “A study released last year by the city found that almost 60 percent of firearms recovered at Chicago crime scenes were first bought in states that do not require background checks for Internet or gun show sales, like neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin.”

    AND?
    Does it matter at all where they were first bought, when they’re on average more than 10 years old, and have changed hands illegally more than a few times?

    • “Does it matter at all where they were first bought…”

      It only matters if you are a leftist who is trying to convince the low information voter to decapitate the 2nd amendment, and lies are the only thing you have.

  7. “The supply is not as important as the demand.”

    They can never seem to get it through their heads that the neighboring states and suburbs with the looser gun laws have lower murder rates than Chicago, and what this should tell them.

    • Chicago and Houston are similar in population and size … and probably even fairly similar with respect to business and economic opportunity. And yet Houston’s violent crime rate is substantially lower than Chicago’s violent crime rate. That should be an impossibility given the “lax” gun laws in Houston compared to Chicago.

  8. If you have something to prove and the facts won’t back you up? Lie through your teeth. Them statistics’ll say just about anything you want if you sling ’em right.

  9. More evidence demonstrating Chicago’s lack of concern about the “gun problem”. The reason…Castle Coin & Conscience. The cost of incarceration exceeds the value the city places on a life. Exception being the city secretly wanting to pay 5 million to bury the recent video of the cop shooting a knife wielding PCP citizen taunting law enforcement. Back to da point – Cost to deny law abiding citizens the most effective means for lawful self protection is lower than incarceration AND the revolving door of justice contributes to increasing revenues for local, state, and federal juristictions.

    This model is sustainable because political cost is low on both ends. Poor people don’t have a political stake and city “leaders” will chuck LEO’s under the bus should they do their job. The perfect storm of a no win.

  10. Yet, in New Mexico, A person can sell a gun in the news paper to a private individual without needing to go through an FFL. At our gun shows, a private seller can sell a gun without a NICS check.. No private citizen needs prior approval from the state in the form of an FOID card, like ILL, to buy a pistol. Our murder rate, last I looked, was 6.6 per hundred thousand.

    I believe, In Illinois, every gun sale, private or not, needs to go through an FFL. No private citizen can buy a pistol without an FOID card. Most murders are committed with a pistol. Chicago’s murder rate is about 15 per hundred thousand.

    I don’t think it’s the gun laws that make the difference.

    • No Thomas, in Illinois, we don’t need to go through background checks for private sales. The buyer must show you a valid FOID card and the sale goes through. Also need the FOID card to buy handguns, long guns, shotguns and ammunition.

    • Private sales do not have to go through FFL in Illinois. Buyer must present FOID otherwise instant felony. Card number should be verified either by call in or internet, but my understanding is that there is no penalty for not doing so. Either way seller keeps records of sale including foid number and verification number for 10 years. As buyer I keep records as well but my understanding is that this is not specifically required.

  11. They are playing with words. ALL purchases of new handguns from dealers in ANY state require a background check , and out of state residents cannot buy handguns.

    the guns pictured look to be 50’s -70’s vintage. they have most likely been stolen at least once. Also, people who bought them originally may have bought them before any background checks were required anywhere.
    they have most likely been stolen at least once.

    • ALL purchases of new handguns from dealers in ANY state require a background check , and out of state residents cannot buy handguns.
      I suppose an Indiana straw purchaser could buy a gun for a Chicago pharmaceutical entrepreneur.

  12. “Between 80 to 85 percent of the city’s homicides are committed with a gun. Of those murders, a “preponderance” are carried out by gang members, according to a 2015 report co-authored by Duke’s Phillip Cook.

    So, gun prohibition will work because drug prohibition has worked so well. That’s the argument?

    After forty-ish years of extra-aggressive, federal drug prohibition, styled as a “war”, the “preponderance” of the murders done with guns(*), are carried out by members of *drug* *gangs.* Gangs that are organized around the trade in illicit drugs.

    How’s that prohibition working out for you? You’d think Chicago of all places would be clear on how prohibitions tend to play out. Al Capone, anyone?

    Question 1: Who is best equipped to be immune to, even profit from, gun prohibition? Could it be the people doing just fine operating in the prohibited drug market?

    Question 2: What product category is more like “illegal drugs” in its transport, supply and delivery? Small. Inert. High value by weight / volume, Non-perishable (mostly). (Relatively) Easily verifiable. Very dividable and scalable. (Relatively) robust. (The only other categories that come close are currency, bullion, licensed media, certain specialty manufactured components e. g. computer chips, and “legal” but restricted drugs.)

    The Drug Cartels, and their affiliated gang-bangers are totally geared up to jump on the illicit guns market. Indeed, providing illicit guns is already a sort of side-business. You wanna hurt these guys, you really do want to make it easier to get a gun *legally* on a street corner than a book. Take away their market and their advantage at the same time.

    Question 3: Name me any two product categories that are anywhere near as synergistic as (illegal) drugs, and (illegal) guns? Customers. Operations. Sourcing. Finances. Connections / network.

    If the drug cartels weren’t making tons of money off their current businesses, they’d be angling for another prohibition to create a new market they could grow into, and own.

    Wait a tick…

    (*) So, 15-20%, 20% being 1 in 5, of these homicides are done using something other than a gun. It appears that a gun isn’t necessary to do murder. Maybe that’s because guns don’t do murder. People do murder. Some people. The name for hem is “murderers.”

    • Yep. The only ones that benefit from the “War On Drugs” are the drug dealers and the government. And the only ones that lose are the people and our freedoms..

      It’s the same with the “War on Terror”. The only loss are our freedoms. It certainly is not stopping the terrorists.

      Until people wake up, the only war that is being won, the war on our freedoms by the government, will continue.

  13. also, I wonder how much of the “gun crime” that these guns were used in was some otherwise law abiding people who were keeping a gun in their car or on their person for legitimate protection and were caught in a traffic stop or something like that and charged with carrying of position of an unregistered gun.

  14. Here in Michigan, we receive a bit of the blame for Chicago’s violence due to our “lax gun laws”, and yet, for some odd reason, we don’t have anywhere near the amount of violence that Chicago has. It iritates the hell out of me every time Chicago tries to blame us, because we are actually capable of cultivating a society where people don’t murder others for “comin’ on our turf” or being/wearing the wrong colors (excluding portions of Detroit, which is really it’s own little state). Why is our state not held up as an example of what to do, rather then be blamed for a problem 150 miles away?

    • I have hope for Detroit now that the police chief has acknowledged the legitimacy of self defense by private citizens.

    • Your state gets blamed because people’s mentality today is to blame others for their problems. They’re either too lazy to, or lack the ability to, consider that they might be doing something that causes their problems. It’s much easier to pass the blame.

  15. I live in Indiana and I remember there being a law against selling guns to residence from Illinois at gun shows.

      • Either way it is against federal law to transfer a handgun to an out of state resident. Transfer must happen at FFL in the resident’s state.

        • If you’re an FFL. I don’t even ask where somebody is from before I sell them a chair, or a car, or a blanket, or an apple, or a firearm. Actually, it would be constitutional to prohibit interstate sale of ALL of those things. Except the firearm, of course, the local, state, or federal governments are prohibited from interfering with sales of those.

  16. A study released last year by the city found that almost 60 percent of firearms recovered at Chicago crime scenes were first bought in states that do not require background checks for Internet or gun show sales, like neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin.

    This paragraph is even worse than Robert indicates. Not only does it not confirm that the guns were acquired via Internet or gun show sales, it is not even clear that the guns came from neighboring states! It says they came from states that do not require background checks, *like* neighboring states Indiana and Wisconsin. There are 42 other states that match that description that aren’t Indiana or Wisconsin.

  17. A little better than a decade ago my rental house in Oxford, MS was burglarized. Among the stolen items were two pistols. Two years after the incident my stolen Springfield Armory Custom Loaded 1911 was recovered by the Chicago PD. It took me another two years of calling people on an increasingly frequent basis before I was able to get my 1911 returned. It surprised me that my pistol made it all they way up to Chicago, and I was never given any details as to the circumstances of the recovery.

    • Your experience is not unusual. While Chicago pols don’t like to repeat the fact, the source states for handguns involved in Chicago crimes, after immediate neighbor states, are those states from which the most numerous “great migration” people came. The theory is that South Chicago residents disproportionately visit Louisiana, MS, Alabama, etc., where they have relatives…and pick up pistols there.

  18. That’s funny, an independent study from the University of Chicago found that over 97% of guns obtained by criminals in Chicago were obtained from friends, family, and other career criminals, those that remain unaffected by these laws. They surveyed actual career criminals in prison instead of guessing and assuming material facts about “crime guns”.

    This has nothing to do with “lax laws”, considering bringing a gun across state lines to sell to a restricted individual includes two felonies already, but everything to do with lax enforcement in Chicago, namely against gangs, and failed corrections policies. Trying to legislate criminals is always foolish.

  19. What they are saying is violence is endemic to Chicago. It is in no way caused by public policy, and there is no way to eliminate or diminish it. Rather, guns from outside Chicago feed and enable that violence. It’s like to stop an alcoholic from drinking, we have to shut down all the bars and liquor stores around him. Of course, all the guns are trafficked into the city. There is not a single gun store in Chicago, and there are not that many gun stores in nearby suburbs. These gangbangers are #1) underage or #2) felons. Chicago is in no way special. Forcing Chicago’s restrictive gun laws on other jurisdictions will make things worse for them and not improve anything in Chicago. It’s counterintuitive, but if Chicago stopped focusing on guns, and at the same time, allowed its citizens to protect themselves, Chicago will stop being the shootout capitol of the US.

  20. From: Wikipedia (I’ve personally verified this information)

    As far back as 1992, and as recently as 2009, the Congressional Research Service has warned about the use of statistics from ATF’s tracing system. “The ATF tracing system is an operational system designed to help law enforcement agencies identify the ownership path of individual firearms. It was not designed to collect statistics.”

    According to the Congressional Research Service, the information from firearms searches is limited and may be biased by several factors:

    • traced firearms are generally recovered by law enforcement, and they may not be representative of firearms possessed and used by criminals;
    • there remains significant variation over time and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction as to “when, why, and how” a firearm is recovered and selected to be traced; and
    • a substantial percentage of recovered firearms cannot be successfully traced for several reasons.”

    Not from Wikipedia:
    In addition to the above info, trace information is deceptive for a number of reasons. Cops trace guns from the same apartment building where a crime was committed. They trace stolen guns that are recovered before being returned to owners. They trace licensed concealed carry guns if they get a chance. If they find a gun of any kind in the car of an innocent civilian, it will probably be traced. ATF encourages cops to trace every gun they encounter regardless whether it was used in a crime or not. Because it “might” have been used in a crime in the past, or “might” be used in a crime in the future……

    • It was not designed to collect statistics.

      Which is ironic, because that’s what it’s overwhelmingly used for. It’s no good for solving crimes, after all.

  21. “crimes in Chicago come from neighboring states with lax gun laws.”

    The good part of America suffers from crimes of despotism, foisted upon them by the POS (D) in blue cities.

    When all you POS (D) grow up (or be graced by being co-located on either a volcano or a sink-hole), the rest of us won’t have to suffer from your sh_t.

    Just FYI. We have a lot of f’d up people where I live too, they tend to not be from here.

  22. How many different ways can they say that the evil blue (D) system, and the evil blue enclaves of (D), is a fing failure before you believe them???

    How many times do we have to say that they are ignorant F’s, and we don’t rely on their broke(D)I<k nonsense for anything other than A GOOD EXAMPLE OF BAD, and marginally interesting episodes of cops.

  23. It is all Indiana’s fault, which if you exclude certain black drug gang areas of Indy, Fort Wayne, and Gary, is a fairly safe place to be.

  24. Still waiting for them to explain why the areas the guns come from with these “lax laws”, don’t have the same murder problems that Chicago has, if “lax laws” are the problem.

  25. So…couple of issues with the whole “the problem is guns bought in nearby states with less gun laws” thing…

    1. If you buy a gun in a state other than the one where you live…pretty sure that requires a background check by law. But yes…by all means…passing more laws will keep these folks already breaking the law from breaking the law.
    2. Internet sales? Just exactly what are these crazy Wild West non rules that exist with these sales. It’s almost like in some states you can just order a gun online and they send it right to your house thru the mail with no background check…oh wait…thru the mail requires a background check huh? Dang it. So how does that Internet thing work then? Hmm…kinda like selling to a friend…well that’s a lot different huh?

  26. Back in 2010, TTAG published this paper: “ATF eTrace: Backdoor National Firearms Registration Scheme
    http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2010/10/robert-farago/atf-etrace-revealed-backdoor-national-firearms-registration-scheme/

    “Dr. Paul Blackman put it best in his paper “Uses and Limitations of ATF Tracing Data” in 1998. His conclusion? “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. This old data processing principle describes the fact that computers will unquestioningly process the most nonsensical input data and produce nonsensical output. ATF tries to convince Congress, Law Enforcement, and the American People, that ATF systems produce “Garbage In, Gospel Out”. But such is not the case.

    To paraphrase Dr. Blackman: When garbage data is processed (as in ATF Firearms Tracing Systems), garbage will be produced as output. Analyses of tracing data, however performed, are like discussions of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. There is no need to carefully evaluate the data or the analyses; they are worthless. ATF has been forced to publish a disclaimer (the “small print”) with each of their reports which states, “Not all firearms used in crime are traced, and not all firearms traced are used in crime.”

    Nevertheless, ATF goes on to refer to traced guns with false and misleading “catch-phrases”. They falsely call every traced gun a “crime gun”. They create meaningless and misleading statistics on “Time to Crime” (in reality “Time to Trace”), mythical most popular crime guns (actually most often traced) and Source States for Recovered Firearms which implies illegal gun trafficking but could be entirely legal interstate used gun transfers or people simply moving to a different state. ATF is using deliberately misleading phrases and being openly and fundamentally dishonest with Congress and the American People.”

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