How closing the ‘Gun Show Loophole’ could help Chicago’s gun violence epidemic

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A year and a half ago WGN Investigates traveled to Holly Springs Mississippi to track down a straw buyer, a sort of middle man, who, for a lousy hundred bucks bought and sold a gun to a gang banger who took it to Chicago.

That one gun was used to shoot and kill an Iraqi war veteran and Chicago cop, Tommy Wortham.   His father, who had 32 years with the CPD, told WGN News he’s seen gun violence over the years.  But when it hit home, it made it much different.

To trace the weapon used to kill his son, WGN Investigates headed up this trail from Mississippi.  We stopped at another gun shop where more than 50 guns had made their way north to Chicago.

An agitated owner of a pawn shop there didn’t want to talk to us about the guns from his shop ending up in the hands of gang bangers. But with our hidden cameras rolling he defended his actions and the state of Mississippi.

He blamed Chicago for all of its problems, saying he’d seen a lot of news about Chicago shootings.  He said it’s “bull” to blame Mississippi for those big city problems.

But we found there is a real connection to Chicago guns originating from the Blues Trail of Mississippi.  The Chicago guys who bought these Mississippi guns had friends and family living here.  They used them to get past the stricter gun laws in Illinois.  Down South, all you need is a clean record and a driver’s license to buy a gun - and they’re a lot cheaper in Mississippi.

From the heart of the Delta Blues in Clarksdale, Mississippi during one five year period, 301 guns were traced to the city of Chicago.

We ended our road trip at a gun show in Indiana where we found lots for sale on a Saturday afternoon outside of Indianapolis.  For a five dollar entry fee you could buy all sorts of stuff; bullets, handbags with hidden pockets, and of course, guns.  Authorities say guns from private sales at places like this are ending up on Chicago streets.

Tom Ahern is a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives -- ATF.  He says guns are cheaper in Indiana where they have fewer requirements for getting your hands on one.

And then there’s the “gun show loophole.” What is that? They’re the unlicensed dealers selling their private collections sitting next to licensed dealers.

The ATF’s Ahern says the private sellers don’t hold buyers to any criminal background standard because they don’t have to by law.

More than 3,000 guns confiscated in Chicago came from Indiana. If sold by a private dealer at a gun show, it’s tough to trace.

Below are links to the original WGN Investigates: