It’s been another violent weekend in Chicago, with at least five people killed in less than 24 hours between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Unfortunately, Chicago politicians like Lori Lightfoot and Rep. LaShawn Ford continue to complain about Indiana gun laws instead of focusing on Chicago’s violent criminals. Earlier this week Mayor Lightfoot called for a federal universal background check law that she says would keep criminals from buying guns in Indiana and bringing them back to Illinois, and now Ford is demanding a database that would somehow alert Illinois police when a resident buys a gun in Indiana.
“If Illinois had a database where we knew how many guns a person went to Indiana to purchase, then we could stop the gun-running that is taking place in Illinois right now,” Ford said.
Ford said such a database would make it easier to track down who is trafficking guns to Illinois that are used in crimes. He said it could also deter some people from going out of state to buy guns and bring them back to Illinois.
This is such a dumb idea I hardly know where to start, but I’ll try. Let’s begin with the fact that according to ATF trace data, the majority of firearms traced in the state of Illinois were originally sold in Illinois, not Indiana.
Take a look at the 2018 gun trace data from the ATF for the state of Illinois (you can download it here). There were 14,062 firearms that were recovered that year, but only 10,504 total traces were successfully conducted. It turns out that 5,337 firearms, more than half of all the guns traced by the ATF, were originally sold in Illinois. By comparison, there were 1,548 firearms recovered in Illinois that were traced back to an Indiana sale.
There were more than three times as many traces on guns sold in Illinois than guns sold in Indiana. As long as Lightfoot and Ford can’t even acknowledge that Indiana isn’t driving Chicago violence, their suggestions on how to fix the problem can’t be taken seriously.
Ford is also apparently unaware that all commercial handgun purchases must go through a FFL if the buyer is from out of state. An Illinois resident buying a handgun in Indiana has to have it shipped to an FFL in Illinois. That law doesn’t apply to rifles, but the ATF trace data for Illinois shows that fewer than 10% of firearms that were seized and traced were rifles of any kind. Even if Ford could get his database, it wouldn’t fix the violent crime in Chicago, because rifles legally sold in Indiana aren’t the problem.
The problem is this: Chicago residents are illegally obtaining firearms (mostly handguns and most from Illinois) on the illicit market and using them to commit violent crimes. Why are they doing it? Because they believe they can get away with their crimes, and often times they’re right. In 2019, Chicago police made 109 arrests in the 498 homicides that took place in the city. That’s a clearance rate of about 22%, and the clearance rate for shootings is even lower. In 2018 the Chicago Tribune reported that police solved just one out of every twenty shooting cases.
Fixing Chicago’s violent crime problem starts with ensuring that Chicago’s criminals, especially the city’s most violent offenders, know that consequences are swift and certain. That’s it. It’s that simple, though it’s not that easy. Still, if Chicago’s political leaders would focus on doing that instead of trying to pin the blame on the Second Amendment, they could actually make a difference. As things stand, their laser-like focus in the wrong direction will only lead to inaction, which in turn will make things worse in neighborhoods that already feel like a war zone.