A new report from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is shedding light on where weapons are coming from.
While the ATF director trumpeted the analysis by saying “information is power,” it’s important to note that, by law, the agency is only allowed to trace firearms used in crimes which can lead to a blind spot in a nation with more guns than people.
But the report helps to understand how guns are arriving at crime scenes.
While break-ins at gun stores make headlines, the report says these types of burglaries have declined in recent years.
So where are guns used in crimes coming from?
ATF found that 96% of guns reported stolen between 2017-2021 were reported stolen from private citizens. That’s more than 1 million guns unaccounted for.
Experts caution and say criminals sometimes falsely report thefts to cover-up their role in the gun supply pipeline.
The report also confirms Chicago is a gun crime capital.
Over the past five years, Chicago has had the highest number of gun trace requests to the ATF of any big city in the nation. New York didn’t make the top five.
Years ago, southern states, and neighboring states like Indiana, with looser gun laws were often cited as the top sources of guns flowing into Illinois. But the ATF found Illinois is now its own top supplier of guns later used to commit crimes here.
The City of Chicago does not allow gun stores and that helps helps explain why ATF Analysts found suburbs that ring the city including Lyons, Oak Forest, Riverdale, Melrose Park and Gary, Indiana are the top local sources of guns later used in crimes.
The ATF also found more than 1900 home-made, unlicensed “ghost guns” were used in crimes in 2021, a huge increase for a category of gun that barely registered five years earlier.