Gun shops are outlawed in the city, but uneven state and local
rules allow guns to flow into Chicago from the outside.
Not a single gun shop can be found in this city because they are
outlawed. Handguns were banned in Chicago for decades, too, until
2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that was going too far,
leading city leaders to settle for restrictions some describe as the
closest they could get legally to a ban without a ban. Despite a
continuing legal fight, Illinois remains the only state in the
nation with no provision to let private citizens carry guns in
And yet Chicago, a city with no civilian gun ranges and bans on
both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, finds itself
laboring to stem a flood of gun violence that contributed to more
than 500 homicides last year and at least 40 killings already in
2013, including a fatal shooting of a 15-year-old girl on Tuesday.
To gun rights advocates, the city provides stark evidence that
even some of the toughest restrictions fail to make places safer.
"The gun laws in Chicago only restrict the law-abiding citizens, and
they've essentially made the citizens prey," said Richard A.
Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association.
To gun control proponents, the struggles here underscore the
opposite -- a need for strict, uniform national gun laws to
eliminate the current patchwork of state and local rules that allow
guns to flow into this city from outside.
"Chicago is like a house with two parents that may try to have
good rules and do what they can, but it's like you've got this
single house sitting on a whole block where there's anarchy," said
the Rev. Ira J. Acree, one among a group of pastors here who have
marched and gathered signatures for an end to so much shooting.
"Chicago is an argument for laws that are statewide or, better yet,
Chicago's experience reveals the complications inherent in
carrying out local gun laws around the nation. Less restrictive laws
in neighboring communities and states not only make guns easy to
obtain nearby, but layers of differing laws -- local and state --
make it difficult to police violations. And though many describe the
local and state gun laws here as relatively stringent, penalties for
violating them -- from jail time to fines -- have not proved as
severe as they are in some other places, reducing the incentive to
Lately, the police say they are discovering far more guns on the
streets of Chicago than in the nation's two more populous cities,
Los Angeles and New York. They seized 7,400 guns here in crimes or
unpermitted uses last year (compared with 3,285 in New York City),
and have confiscated 574 guns just since Jan. 1 -- 124 of them last
More than a quarter of the firearms seized on the streets here by
the Chicago Police Department over the past five years were bought
just outside city limits in Cook County suburbs, according to an
analysis by the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Others came from
stores around Illinois and from other states, like Indiana, less
than an hour's drive away. Since 2008, more than 1,300 of the
confiscated guns, the analysis showed, were bought from just one
store, Chuck's Gun Shop in Riverdale, Illinois, within a few miles
of Chicago's city limits.
Efforts to compare the strictness of gun laws and the level of
violence across major U.S. cities are fraught with contradiction and
complication, not least because of varying degrees of coordination
between local and state laws and differing levels of enforcement. In
New York City, where homicides and shootings have decreased, the gun
laws are generally seen as at least as strict as Chicago's, and the
state laws in New York and many of its neighboring states are viewed
as still tougher than those in and around Illinois. Philadelphia,
like cities in many states, is limited in writing gun measures that
go beyond those set by Pennsylvania law. Some city officials there
have chafed under what they see as relatively lax state controls. …