Atlantic Cities

Where Chicago's Guns Come From

Where Chicago's Guns Come From
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Just this past weekend, there were reports of over 40 shooting victims in Chicago. Many of the guns seized in the city, however, originate in the suburbs, according to a terrific analysis in Monday's Chicago Tribune.

The research shows that some 29 percent of the guns recovered on Chicago's streets between 2008 and the end of March were bought in the Cook County suburbs. Lake County, Ind., was the second largest source, accounting for 6 percent of the weapons, and other counties surrounding Chicago — including Lake County, Ill., and Will, DuPage and Kane counties — were also among the top 10 sources.

Two gun stores in suburban Lyons and Riverdale accounted for more than 10 percent of the guns recovered.

Cities fellow Sara Johnson tracked down the original study from the Chicago Police Department, which provided the data to the University of Chicago for analysis. The study used gun seizure records to identify the locations where the guns were purchased. The report tracked 17,230 guns recovered by the Chicago Police Department between January 1, 2008 and March 31, 2012.

The table below shows the counties where the guns were purchased. Nearly 5,000 of the guns seized in Chicago — almost 30 percent — were bought in Cook County, Illinois, where Chicago is located. The next largest county source was Lake County, Indiana (6.2 percent), which is part of the Chicago metro area as well.

 County (State) Number Percent
Cook, Illinois 4,975 28.9
Lake, Indiana 1,064 6.2
Du Page, Illinois 633 3.7
Marion, Indiana 455 2.6
Will, Illinois 349 2.0
Porter, Indiana 295 1.7
Kane, Illinois 293 1.7
St. Joseph, Indiana 247 1.4
Lake, Illinois 148 0.9
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 127 0.7
Total 17,230 100

Data courtesy of the Chicago Police Department and the University of Chicago

This second table below shows the states where Chicago's guns come from. More than half of these guns — nearly 10,000 or almost 58 percent — originate from outside the state of Illinois. More than 3,000 guns come from Indiana, and another 1,000-plus come from Mississippi.

State Number Percent
Illinois 7,280 42.3
Indiana 3,148 18.3
Mississippi 1,199 7.0
Wisconsin 636 3.7
Ohio 419 2.4
Kentucky 388 2.3
Tennessee 373 2.2
Alabama 345 2
Georgia 307 1.8
Arkansas 297 1.7
Total 17,230 100

Data courtesy of the Chicago Police Department and the University of Chicago

This study illustrates one of the biggest difficulties in gun control policy. Because these guns are often not bought in the state, or even the metro area, law enforcement may have a harder time tracking them, as guns, like people, are highly mobile.

Top image: wongwean / Shutterstock.com

Richard Florida is Co-Founder and Editor at Large at The Atlantic Cities. He's also a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, and Global Research Professor at New York University. He is a frequent speaker to communities, business and professional organizations, and founder of the Creative Class Group, whose current client list can be found here. All posts »

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