I always know a pro-gun person is not very bright when they say, “Yeah, if gun laws work, what about Chicago? That city has some of the strictest gun laws and they have the worst gun crime!”
Illinois is bordered by Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Missouri and Iowa. All states with easy gun access.
I never considered buying a gun when I lived in Chicago, but even I knew you could drive a short distance to Wisconsin (to the north) and Indiana (to the South) and buy a gun in no time at all. And those were just the legal ones at gun dealers. Black market guns are plentiful.
You didn’t have to actually drive to another state to get a black market gun. Chicago is flooded with illegal guns from easy access states.
Writers Dan Frosch and Zusha Elinson have an interesting Wall Street Journal article up about this problem, titled, “Gun Trafficking Surges Across State Lines: One Pistol’s 1,200-Mile Journey to a Boston Homicide.”
In Massachusetts, which has some of the nation’s strictest firearms laws, 79% of guns traced by police in criminal investigations came from out of state in 2020, compared with 63% in 2015, according to data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. California, which also has stringent firearms rules, saw a jump to 45% from 30% over the same period.
As disparities between local gun laws widen, the surge in guns trafficked between states is being fueled by schemes involving straw buyers, according to law enforcement. The crime is simple, but difficult to thwart: People who can clear a background check and are willing to do a quick job for a little money buy the guns for traffickers. The traffickers pay them and drive the weapons across state lines. They then sell them to gang members, people barred from owning firearms and others who want to avoid background checks in places where it is harder to buy guns.
People purchasing guns must fill out a form affirming that they are buying the firearm for themselves. Straw purchasers caught lying typically get probation. Traffickers convicted of dealing guns without a license or selling to prohibited people usually receive prison time, but often not more than a couple of years.
Measures signed in June by President Biden after the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting include tougher penalties of 15 years in prison for straw purchasers and gun traffickers. Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a recent news conference that teams of federal agents formed last year to stymie gun trafficking were making progress.
Such efforts are unlikely to stop the deluge of guns moving from state to state, law-enforcement officials and prosecutors say, so long as demand exists and regulations vary significantly.
Of course, if a gun from Tuscaloosa, Alabama — in an easy access gun state — can make it all the way to Boston — in a highly gun-regulated state and city — to be used to gun down an innocent 17-year-old, proximity isn’t the only important factor.