Tracing the ways that illegal guns make it to Chicago's streets

All guns used in Chicago crimes start out as legal, but somewhere along the line, they end up in the hands of criminals.

As we head toward the typically violent Fourth of July holiday, we are taking a closer look at where Chicago crime guns come from and how the police are tracing them.

"The simple fact is, we just have too many guns in Chicago and too many people willing to use them,” said Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.

This is Chicago’s reality. It was even more apparent after an off-duty Chicago officer was shot in the head last week. Twenty shell casings were found at the scene, and each will be tested and put into a federal database.

"If there was another shell casing from a previous crime, even if it wasn't from Chicago, even if it was from Los Angeles or New York or Miami this system will match up that shell casing from a previously unsolved crime,” said CPD Deputy Director of News Affairs and Communications Thomas Ahern.

Chicago leads the nation with the amount of firearms police enter into the federal gun tracing system, because so many are recovered on the streets.

Ahern – who is a former ATF agent -- says when they are tracked, the firearms used in Chicago crimes are purchased in Illinois, followed by Indiana and Mississippi.

"They don't have the same rules and requirements that Illinois has…in Indiana you just need a state ID, a driver's license and you can buy a gun,” Ahern said. "They come to these guns shows and they literally open up the trucks of their cars and they sell their collection…the bad guys know that and they go over there and they buy 30 or 40 at a time and they bring them back here to Chicago."

A gun bought on the street can go for three times the cost of a legal purchase. Criminals are making it harder to find the guns they are using, and have gotten smarter about stashing them.

"The gangs have become more sophisticated, they have the same type of weaponry that law enforcement has…high quality guns, 9 millimeters, 40 calibers, 45 semi-automatics,” Ahern said. "They usually don't carry the guns on them, they check them out or keep them in one stash house in one location, and they'll move that stash house around often, several times a week, that way they can't be detected."

Gun turn-in events are a pro-active approach to getting guns off the streets.

"We generally get a little bit more than 100 guns, we can get from 100 to 400 guns in five hours so we get a tremendous response,” said C.A.P.S. Director Glen Brooks.

The gun used to kill Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer came from Wisconsin, but was bought and sold until it fell into the accused killer's hands. Getting illegal guns off the streets has been an uphill battle for police when dealing with repeat offenders and the judicial system.

"We see the same offenders over and over again and their out within maybe sometimes hours or days or even a couple months,” Ahern said. 'We have to hold these repeat gun offenders accountable for their actions."