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Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: Chicago seizes more guns than New York, Los Angeles

The statement

Says in Chicago, "we take more guns off the streets than New York or L.A."

Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, in a CNN interview

The ruling

We talked with Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman in Emanuel's office. He said the city uses the comparison with New York and Los Angeles to demonstrate that Chicago's strict gun control rules won't work by themselves.

In the first six months of last year, the city — not counting gun buybacks or turn-ins — seized 3,912 guns. That's as many as New York and Los Angeles combined, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which got numbers from the cities' police departments.

In Chicago, police picked up illegal weapons at crime scenes and at traffic stops, found them with search warrants and investigations, or heard about them when people called 911 to report a "man with a gun."

In the same months that Chicago recovered 3,912 guns, Los Angeles got 2,296 and New York got 1,385.

That wasn't an anomaly, according to Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

For several years under the Clinton administration, an effort to fight youth crime collected gun-tracing data for major U.S. cities.

"I can tell you that Chicago consistently recovered more guns than any of the other cities," Webster said.

We pulled those reports from 1998, 1999 and 2000. Chicago recovered and traced more guns than either New York or Los Angeles in all three years. In 1998, it picked up 16,222 weapons — more than the two larger cities together. Why?

Webster points out that the city has a lot of gangs, and gangs and guns go together. Its Police Department cracks down on illegal gun possession, making arrests more likely. And Illinois gun control laws aren't nearly as strong as those in New York and California in deterring gun trafficking into the city, he said.

Webster told House Democrats in March that studies show state gun laws are undermined by gaps in federal law — people buy guns in states with the weakest laws to sell in states with the toughest laws.

The same idea works for counties and cities.

In Chicago, all it takes is a drive outside the city limits, the New York Times reported, such as to Chuck's Gun Shop in Riverdale, Ill., the source of more than 1,300 weapons seized in Chicago since 2008.

The same store was identified as a key source of crime guns in a New York Times piece in 1999.

We rate this statement True.

Edited for print. Read the full version at

PolitiFact: Chicago seizes more guns than New York, Los Angeles 04/12/13 [Last modified: Saturday, April 13, 2013 12:19am]
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