As Chicago’s murder toll hit a level not seen in two decades last year, the number of burglaries of gun stores in Illinois was nearly triple what it was the year before. Nationally, such crimes rose more by almost a third over the same period, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Law enforcement officials say that gang members see gun stores as easy marks to supply themselves. Some see the guns as a way to make some easy money. These types of burglaries and thefts highlight the extent the criminal element will go to obtain firearms that unfortunately often end up being used for illicit purposes, says the ATF’s David Coulson. “We know that these weapons are passed amongst criminals. This is the unfortunate reality.”
Illinois ranked in the top 10 among all states for the number of guns burglarized from firearms dealers and for the number of such stores hit in 2016, ATF figures show. A month ago, ATF formed a special team in Chicago to target gun-store burglars. The thefts continue. In the last month alone, gun dealers in three suburbs were burglarized. As a result of such burglaries, the Illinois General Assembly is considering a bill that would mandate the installation of surveillance cameras and other security measures at gun stores. The bill was approved by the Senate April 27 by a vote of 30-21 and is pending in the House. Federal law doesn’t require that firearms dealers take steps to guard against gun thefts. Some municipalities already have the power, through building codes, to require that gun-store operators take security measures.