Stolen Guns Part 2: Where Criminals Get Their Guns



If your gun is stolen the odds of getting it back are very low, because firearms are a top commodity for thieves.

“Generally, they’re traded on the streets a lot of times people will steal weapons in order to either sell them on the street or to straight trade them for narcotics,” said Sgt. Joe Mahoney with the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office. We talk about gun crime a lot. This study from the University of Chicago Crime Lab went a step further. They interviewed nearly a dozen jail inmates in Illinois asking them where they got their guns. This is insight we haven’t gotten before. I interviewed the co-director of the Chicago Crime Lab Harold Pollack via skype.

“There’s someone close to them in a position of trust that they can turn to that they can either buy that gun legally themselves or can get hold of a legal gun that’s been passed around,” said Pollack. That gun can get passed around for years. Most stolen guns recovered have an average age of ten years–but the average criminal only holds on to it for six months. Pollack says background checks when the guns are first bought have helped make guns tougher to get.

“There’s no one thing that’s going to be the polio vaccine but there are choke points we can deal with to make it a little bit harder to get an illegal gun,” said Pollack. That’s why this underground economy exists–but it also makes it harder for law enforcement to track down the origins of a stolen gun.

“If it’s traded hands privately is where the disconnect begins you might be able to trace a gun down that it was sold at a certain sporting goods store but that gun may have changed hands several times since ” said Mobile Police Chief James Barber.

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