The number of Illinois police departments that trace guns used in crimes is on the rise.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) pushed departments to do this a couple of years ago. For no charge, police can submit the make, model and serial number of a gun confiscated at a crime scene to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to find out where and when it was first legally sold. Durbin says this sometimes provides clues to solving crimes and identifying gun traffickers.
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“This isn’t a problem we can solve overnight,” he said of gun crime, “but we can make great strides in reducing the violence by identifying those who commit gun crimes, and the traffickers who put these guns in the hands of criminals.”
For example, when a gun recovered from a crime scene is traced to its first legal sale, perhaps that buyer was the victim of a burglary that might be solved by information gained from the new crime – or, that first legal buyer might have reported dozens of weapons lost or stolen, an indication of gun trafficking.
The number of Illinois police departments doing this has risen from 392 two years ago to 451 now. Last year, 11,500 crime guns in Illinois were traced, and 6,200 have been so far this year.
Durbin is introducing legislation to require police departments receiving federal grants to trace guns from crime scenes or explain why they don’t. Many of the departments that don’t are small and have little gun crime, so officers may not be trained on how to submit a trace.