‘It’s a concern,’ says Teny Gross, who runs the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, pointing to rising levels of gun possession coinciding with a big increase in violence.
Trillions of dollars of federal COVID-19 relief checks have been sent out across the country to help people buy food and pay rent. In Chicago, they’re also helping to fuel gun sales — legally and illegally.
That’s according to authorities on the subject — including a 25-year-old convicted felon in West Garfield Park who says he spent some of his coronavirus stimulus money to buy a gun on the street.
“You gotta do what you gotta do to stay safe out here,” said the man, speaking on the condition his name not be used.
Law enforcement officials say they’re been building cases against people who have used their pandemic-relief checks to buy guns and illegally resell them on the street.
Law-abiding people are buying guns with their relief checks, too.
“It’s a concern,” said Teny Gross, executive director of the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, a not-for-profit agency whose mission includes mediating conflicts on the West Side and Southwest Side in an effort to avoid violence.
Tio Hardiman, executive director of Violence Interrupters, a not-for-profit Chicago peace initiative, said the two first rounds of federal relief checks have helped fuel a hot market for guns in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago.
“Yes, people are using money they are receiving from COVID-19 resources to buy firearms,” Hardiman said, describing illegal gun possession as out of control. “We hear stories about people selling semi-automatics out of shopping bags these days.”
Though guns have been easy to pick up illegally in Chicago for decades, Hardiman and others say that fears over the huge rise in violence that Chicago has seen over the past year are leading to an even wider proliferation of firearms that’s being seen citywide.
Last year, the number of killings in Chicago was up 55% over the previous year. And the numbers are continuing to soar.
Illinois set a record for lawful gun purchases last year. The Illinois State Police reported more than 554,000 gun-transfer inquiries in 2020 compared with 385,000 in 2019.
Source & Courtesy: Chicago Suntimes