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It’s too easy for legal guns to get into illegal hands

Despite efforts to wash it away blood remains pooled on the ground in Foster Park following a shooting on April 19, 2016 in Chicago. Four people were wounded and one killed when a gunman opened fire during the filming of a rap music video in the park early in the morning. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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Just how easy it is for a legally owned gun to turn into a crime gun — and how hard it is to trace the path — was made clear in Sunday’s Sun-Times as Frank Main reported how a gun stolen from an ex-Chicago cop was used to shoot three Chicago Police officers on the West Side.

The ex-cop kept a .40 caliber Glock Model 22 handgun at a relative’s home in unincorporated Palatine until, police said, it was stolen by a cable TV installer who said he put it into his company truck. From there it somehow traveled to the hands of a man who wounded the three officers on March 14. The cable installer said someone had broken into the truck and stolen the gun on Dec. 15.

Guns are regularly stolen from homes, and from stores as well. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says 12,000 handguns, shotguns and rifles were stolen from stores from 2013 to 2015.

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“[T]hose guns go from the legal market into criminal hands and then are being used in crimes almost instantly,” ATF Resident Agent in Charge Scott Fulkerson told ABC News.

This is a not only a reason for legal owners to keep their guns locked up and for stores to do a better job of securing their merchandise. It also a reason to support the Gun Dealer Licensing Act, which last week passed out of the Illinois House Judiciary Committee.

Illinois has more gun dealers than it has McDonald’s restaurants, but the state has no licensing requirements. Even if a dealer is careless about guarding inventory, the state can’t do anything.

The added surveillance requirements for gun shops in the bill would make it easier to catch gun thieves. They also would make it easier to stop straw purchasers — people who legally buy large numbers of guns and then sell them to criminals who are banned from purchasing firearms.

The bill also would require criminal background checks for gun dealer employees; training employees on background checks and preventing straw purchases, and training employees to properly store guns to prevent thefts.

According to research conducted for Americans for Responsible Solutions, more than 90 percent of voters in suburban Cook County, and more than 85 percent of voters in the collar counties support the measures in the Gun Dealer Licensing Act.

Between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, five people were killed in Chicago shootings and 40 were wounded. It’s a safe bet that virtually all or all of the guns used in those shootings were once-legal firearms that found their way into criminals’ hands.

We need to shut down that flow of illegal guns as much as we can.

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