CHICAGO (AFP) - One thousand illegal guns have been confiscated from the streets of Chicago so far this year, authorities in the Midwestern US city announced on Wednesday (Feb 21).
The one thousandth firearm was taken from a repeat criminal who ran from police during a traffic stop overnight, police chief Eddie Johnson said.
"That continues our average of seizing an illegal gun out of the hands of an offender for nearly every hour of the year," said Johnson, an advocate of stricter gun laws.
The grim milestone comes amid a national conversation over gun control sparked by the Florida school shooting last Wednesday (FEB 14) that claimed the lives of 17 people.
Once a model of tough gun regulations, the nation's third largest city has seen some of its laws struck down by courts and is grappling with an influx of illegal weapons from neighbouring states.
"Whether there's guns that are trafficked illegally into our city from out of state, the easy access to illegal guns or the lack of accountability to prevent individuals from picking up a gun and using it, we can point to far too many examples where lives have been lost and families torn apart because of the availability of these weapons," Johnson said.
Chicago experienced an alarming spike in gun crimes and murders - peaking at more than 750 murders in 2016. The city has since invested in more officers and new law enforcement methods to reduce the violence.
More than 60 per cent of newly-acquired guns used to commit crimes in Chicago come from other states, especially Wisconsin and Indiana, according to a 2015 study by the University of Chicago.
While the city still has a ban on assault weapons, a court ruling struck down its ban on handguns. Officials also have been forced by courts to allow the concealed carry of weapons with a permit.