Summarize the article "Some Sources of Crime Guns in Chicago: Dirty Dealers, Straw Purchasers, and Traffickers," by Philip J. Cook, et. al....

Summarize the article "Some Sources of Crime Guns in Chicago: Dirty Dealers, Straw Purchasers, and Traffickers," by Philip J. Cook, et. al.


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The scholarly article "Some Sources of Crime Guns in Chicago: Dirty Dealers, Straw Purchasers, and Traffickers" (The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 104, No. 4) by Philip J. Cook, et. al., represents an effort by its authors to assist law enforcement agencies in understanding the sources of guns used in crime. More specifically, they seek to assist law enforcement agencies in identifying the sources of firearms used by gang members. Beginning with the recognition that crimes involving firearms in the United States far exceed similar situations in other advanced, industrialized nations, they seek to isolate that community or category of criminal most likely to use a gun in a crime, and to be killed with a gun. The authors  focused their research, which primarily utilized data from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), on the City of Chicago because of that particular venue's high rate of gun-related crime. Additionally, they focused their efforts on gang-related homicides because of the high incidences of crime by gang members using firearms in Chicago.

In attempting to identify the main sources of firearms utilized in criminal activity by gang members, the authors examined ATF data on the number of crimes involving guns purchased new from Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) dealers, as well as the number purchased through illicit sources, such as illegal gun traffickers. The authors' findings suggest that FFL dealers are not the problem, in terms of direct gun sales to gang members. A very small percentage (2%) of new guns used by gang members were purchased by gang members from licensed gun dealers. Most guns, the data indicates, used by gang members in crimes are old, generally around ten years old, to be precise. These older firearms have been circulated among a number of owners by the time they are used in homicides.

The other potential source of firearms used by gang members is illegal or illicit traffickers. The study's findings, however, similarly suggest that illegal traffickers are only a very minor source of firearms for gang members. In their discussion of so-called "dirty dealers," the authors conclude the following:

"Of course, dealers may be supplying gang members through other types of transactions that are not observable using trace data: straw purchases, undocumented sales, transactions involving used guns, or theft. We do not find much evidence for large-scale illegal diversion of inventory by gun dealers."

So, the authors conclude, "new gun" homicides account for a very minute percentage of gang-related, gun-involved homicides. However, they did find that, when new guns were used and found in the possession of gang members, those weapons were purchased not by the gang member per se, but rather by the gang member's girlfriend, or by another individual not directly associated with gang activity. Such purchases are categorized as "straw purchases," because they do represent efforts at diverting new guns to individuals who would not otherwise be able to purchase a new weapon directly from a licensed dealer. As the authors' write:

"Straw purchases seem to be a more important source of crime guns to gangs compared to other types of dealer sales. As one indication of the volume of straw purchases, we estimate that 15% of new guns that were sold within two years of confiscation and were taken from male gang members were first sold to a woman." 

Finally, the authors of the study conclude that most of the guns found in the possession of gang members in Chicago originated outside of that city. Most such weapons, they write, "come from central or southern Illinois, or another state (especially Indiana)." Indiana, in fact, was found to be the source of many of the new guns found to be in the possession of gang members.

Cook and his colleagues conclude that enforcement of existing firearms regulations is the most viable approach in attempting to reduce the flow of guns to gangs. The main obstacle is budgetary. Failure to allocate the requisite financial resources for this purpose remains the biggest problem in addressing the problem of gun-related crime by members of gangs.