A new study which will be published in the journal Preventive Medicine in October has concluded that most criminals in Chicago do not acquire guns legally.
The study, conducted by researchers at Duke University and the University of Chicago, surveyed 99 inmates at the Cook County Jail in the fall of 2013. The number of respondents was reached after asking 138 inmates to participate; 100 gave their consent, and one was included by error. Priority was given to those charged with firearm possession at the time of arrest or whose criminal history indicated involvement with guns.
Using a six month window of time prior to their arrest, the Cook County Jail (CCJ) survey asked respondents about the prevalence of guns in their neighborhood, where the guns were coming from, and how easy they were to obtain. 70 of those interviewed admitted to having access to a gun during the time period, with 40 of them admitting access to more than one gun and eight claiming access to 10 or more guns. 29 of the 99 men denied having access to a gun, but only two of the 29 refused to discuss their more general involvement with firearms. The survey notes that while all of the respondents had a weapon-related charge in their criminal record, not all of the arrests were for current gun-related crimes.
Of the 70 who admitted to having acces to a gun, the survey found that only two (3 percent) were purchased directly from a gun store. Most had gotten their guns illegally: “adults who are entitled to possess a gun are more likely than not to buy from an FFL [licensed dealer]. On the other hand, those who are disqualified by age or criminal history are most likely to obtain their guns in off-the-books transactions, often from social connections such as family and acquaintances, or from ‘street’ sources such as illicit brokers or drug dealers.” The study empasized the "social connections" that were used to obtain guns; 40 of the 48 guns for which there was detailed information were obtained through "family, gang members, or other social connections."
The respondents also demonstrated little knowledge of firearms, including "ignorance of the manner in which firearms function, the ammunition requirements and the capabilites of their weapon of choice."
Cook County Jail is in Chicago, which has very strict gun control laws and banned the sale of firearms within city limits until it was declared unconstitutional in 2014. That same year Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed strict gun control laws, including videotaping gun sales and cross-checking records against a regional trace database.
In order to transfer a gun to another person in Chicago a seller has to create a receipt with the name and ID number of both the seller and buyer, as well as the serial number of the firearm. Giving a gun as a gift requires filling out a form from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
A 2012 study by Syracuse University ranked Chicago at the bottom of several districts in enforcing already existing gun laws.