Illinois launches statewide gun trace database to combat illegal firearm trafficking

Illinois law enforcement agencies will pool information on guns used in crimes across the state, building a database that will allow police to better track the trafficking of illegal guns, state Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced Wednesday at a news conference in Chicago.

Police departments can opt in the newly launched Crime Gun Connect platform developed by the Illinois State Police with help from Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun safety advocacy organization. So far, more than 200 law enforcement agencies in the state have agreed to upload information about weapons and ballistics evidence from crimes, including ownership information from state police and gun trace data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms’ eTrace system.

“These guns are coming from somewhere. There are people trafficking them,” Raoul said. “This shows that we are not only after the person who pulls the trigger, but the person who gets [them] the gun.”

By federal law, records in the eTrace system can’t be rendered in digital form — staff at the federal agency must search through paper records to perform a trace — so Illinois had to navigate a series of legal exceptions in order to build a database that includes information on more than 100,000 guns seized since 2010, Raoul said.

The Illinois database will flag suspicious patterns, like guns from a single shop turning up in crimes soon after they are purchased, to identify potential “straw purchasers” who buy guns legally to sell on the illegal market.

So far, 201 Illinois police departments have pledged to share information with the database, including the Chicago Police Department, which added information on some 87,000 guns.

The database also will make some of its information public, including information about what states are the largest sources of illegal weapons. Less than 39% of guns seized in connection with crimes in Illinois were purchased in the state, with the largest share of weapons coming from Indiana, according to the database.

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