Where gun stores open, gun homicides increase

When Illinois passed a law in 2014 allowing concealed carrying of firearms, becoming the last of 50 states to do so, Sam Rannochio opened Check Your 6, Inc. in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights. The store sells handguns and rifles, and also offers concealed carry lessons. “The two go hand in hand,” says Rannochio.

Check Your 6 was one of hundreds of gun dealers that opened in the United States between 2010 and 2017, notes a preprint study published last month on the social science research website SSRN and which has not yet been peer reviewed. According to the study, which looked at county-level data nationwide over a 17-year period, when the number of gun dealers within a 100-mile radius of a given area increased, the number of gun homicides in this area also increased in the following years. even while unarmed killings have declined overall (see graph). Majority black communities were the first victims of this violence, according to the study.

The sharp increase in gun violence observed in some black communities since 2014 has been largely attributed to the “Ferguson effect”. This term was coined by the then St. Louis police chief, who claimed that the increase in violent crime was due to deteriorating morale among officers following nationwide protests against the 2014 police murder of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in the Ferguson suburb of St. Louis. , Mo. But the study’s authors suggest that these increases are linked to a sharp increase in the number of handgun dealers who specialize in selling handguns near predominantly black communities shortly before 2014.

Before 2010, there had been “a massive drop in the number of gun dealers,” said study co-author David Johnson, an economist at the University of Central Missouri. “Three, four years later, you start to see a drop in homicides and then they reappear once these gun dealers start to reenter the market. It is not known what drove the number of dealerships down before 2010, but the rebound in arms sales may have been motivated by fears that then-President Barack Obama was adopting strict policies. gun control, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of public economics.

The availability of firearms is notoriously difficult to measure, in part because there is no federal gun registry. Previous studies have generally relied on gun suicide records, gun magazine subscriptions, and survey data to estimate the number of guns available in a given area. But the authors of the new study argue that these measurements are imprecise.

Instead, they used federal gun licensing data (which gun dealers are required to obtain from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) as a proxy measure of availability. firearms. The researchers compared that to data from the FBI, as well as statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Census Bureau, to track homicides in each U.S. county. Their analysis found that when a gun dealer opens, homicides in an area surrounding 100 square miles increase by up to 3.9 percent over the following years.

Credit: Amanda Montañez; Source: “Density of Gun Dealers and Its Effects on Homicide,” by David B. Johnson and Joshua J. Robinson. Preprint published October 2, 2021 at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3867782

To make sure they weren’t missing out on other factors that could have led to an increase in gun shops and homicides, researchers also looked at murders that did not involve a gun and found that these “non-firearm homicides” had decreased over the study period. “If the effect on homicides was not primarily due to the guns themselves, then we would expect non-gun homicides to also correlate with gun stores, which we let’s show they’re not, ”Johnson said. “The increase in homicides is due in large part to the increase in the availability of firearms. “

Daniel Webster, who heads the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy and was not involved in the new study, says it raises the question of how to evenly regulate gun stores. “There is enormous variability from one gun dealer to another in terms of the rate at which the guns they sell end up being used in a crime,” he says. “I think this is no accident. It depends on how people run their business. He suspects that tighter gun store regulations, along with increased dealer oversight, would reduce gun crime.

Illinois has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, according to a gun control advocacy organization called the Giffords Law Center, and there are no licensed gun dealers in Chicago. Yet the city remains inundated with guns and is plagued by gun violence. Chicago is within 100 miles of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana (the latter borders the city itself), and all three have far fewer gun restrictions than Illinois.

The SSRN study highlighted Chicago for the same reason, also noting that the city is surrounded by a “halo” of counties in Illinois where arms dealers are concentrated. As a result, Chicagoans don’t have to travel far to legally purchase a gun. “Gun dealers are bringing more guns into the community,” says study co-author Joshua Robinson, an economist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. And this increased availability isn’t limited to law-abiding buyers.

“There have been cases where people have entered [to the store] with bad intentions, ”says Rannochio, the owner of the armory. “You’re always going to have someone trying to buy a gun for someone else, illegally – what they call ‘buying straw.’ Was a police officer for 20 years in Skokie, a affluent predominantly white village that borders Chicago), and he recalled two instances in which he said he refused to sell a gun to potential buyers. As far as he knows, he says, no firearms that Check Your 6 transferred or sold have not been linked to a crime.

Yet guns purchased (or stolen) from other licensed dealers in suburbs and surrounding states are frequently found in Chicago shootings. In a recent high-profile case, a gun allegedly purchased by an Indiana resident in the Chicago town of Hammond, that state, was used in the fatal shooting of a police officer in Chicago. In another, an Indianapolis man allegedly bought a gun that was used to kill a seven-year-old girl on Chicago’s West Side.

“That’s why you keep hearing about straw buying,” says Wallace “Gator” Bradley, a former executioner of the Gangster Disciples, a major Chicago street gang. “The people who have the right to go and buy a gun will go to gun stores or gun shows and buy the guns. They come back right away. He adds that buyers don’t have to cross the state border to do so. “You can go straight to one of the suburbs … and buy a gun.”

Bradley, who was pardoned by Republican Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson in 1990 and a decades-long peace advocate, says he thinks straw buyers should be charged with murder in shootings involving guns that ‘they distribute. Rannochio also says he believes the solution lies in tougher lawsuits. “It’s not the arms dealers who are causing the problems,” says Rannochio. “These are the criminals who commit crimes with guns they are not even supposed to have.” In a statement sent by email to American scientist, Cook County attorney Kim Foxx, a progressive reformer who has overseen the Chicago prosecutions since 2016, said her office was dealing with precisely that. Foxx’s office has prosecuted 5,076 gun cases so far this year, with a conviction rate of 73%.

“We need to make sure that we hold gun stores and gun manufacturers accountable,” says Kina Collins, a gun violence prevention advocate who heads Congressman Danny Davis in the 7th District of the Illinois, which includes some of Chicago’s hardest hit neighborhoods. , as well as parts of the suburbs where there are arms dealers. “And we have to make sure that we are in communication with other leaders in the Midwestern states, because we see a flow of illegal weapons constantly crossing our borders,” adds Collins. “Basically, we need to make sure that we fund violence interruption programs because we know they are working. “

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker on Monday called gun violence a “public health crisis” and announced the formation of a new statewide office for gun violence prevention. Pritzker has pledged to devote $ 250 million in state and federal funds to address the problem.

GoodKids MadCity, a Chicago-based youth organization that advocates for non-prison solutions to gun violence, argues abused communities need less aggressive policing and more government investment to repair years of damage caused by what she calls racist policies. The group has for years promoted a set of proposals collectively called the Peace Book Ordinance, which would divert 2% of the Chicago Police Department‘s annual budget of about $ 1.7 billion to fund services such as mental health and drug addiction treatment.

Webster says such holistic approaches are crucial in mitigating violence. “There are communities where there is substantial divestment, and a lot of systems – schools, transportation, housing, police services – are broken,” he says. “By politics and structure, black people are more concentrated in these neighborhoods. And it is intentional. It is a function of public policy over generations.

Bradley says any solution requires entire cities to unite against gun violence. “No one but God can stop everything,” he said. “And you know it as I know it: America is the biggest arms dealer in the world.”

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