Illinois gun legislation is one of the strictest in the nation, but what is its impact on crime rates?

By Jason Flynn and George Wiebe

New federal gun control legislation has made its way to the forefront of national attention, but hiding behind it are the state lawmakers pushing for and against the new wave of firearm regulations.

Illinois is unique in its attempts to curb gun violence, requiring registration for a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card and a Concealed Carry License (CCL) and the city of Chicago has become infamous for gun related deaths, yet the state of Illinois has the 35th highest firearm mortality rates in the country, according to the CDC.

See more:(Firearm mortality by state)

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If the mortality rate is so low why does the state have such high firearm related arrest rates?

Dustin Clark | @dustinclark.oof

According to Loyola’s Center for Criminal Justice Research (CCJR), 72% of gun crime arrests between 2009 and 2019 were for illegal possession of a firearm.

“Police have a difficult time, particularly in Chicago, solving violent crimes with a gun” David Olson, professor at Loyola University and Co-director of the Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy and Practice said.

“So if we can’t catch them for the violent crime, if we cast a wide enough net, and arrest enough people who really only have guns, chances are some of those people might be the ones driving the violence,” Olson said.

Olson went on to describe a system that is biased towards a certain demographic, young Black men; according to the CCJR study over 50% of people arrested for gun crimes are Black.

“Carrying a gun around for self protection isn’t seen as something where you increase the risk of violence or lethality,” Olson said “but translate that behavior to an urban area with minority populations, and the public oftentimes has a different perception.”

“People think that most gun violence is murders, it’s not,” Olson said, describing the number of suicides committed with a gun, “and as people learn more about that they’re like, okay, maybe the gun problem is different than I thought it was.”

One of Illinois’s solutions to this problem is a restructuring of the FOID card system.

The state recorded a massive backlog of FOID card registrations throughout 2020 culminating in two responses; “Fix the FOID Act” a bill largely supported by state Democrats that would auto renew FOID cards with the registration of an individual’s fingerprints, and the “Firearm Owners ID Act – Repeal,” introduced by Rep. Andrew Chesney (R-Freeport), which would do away with the FOID system entirely.

Meanwhile midwestern neighbors like Missouri and Iowa have proposed legislation lightening firearm legislation.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill allowing permitless handgun ownership, while a Missouri bill the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” is making its way through the state congress.

On the other side of the state, Chicago is attempting to sue an Indiana gun store, claiming its weapons make their way into criminal hands.

“We are surrounded by states and cities that have a much, more lax gun control environment,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.   

Staff reporter George Wiebe can be reached at [email protected]

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