Mississippi is not the only state that is permissive when it comes to guns. This state’s laissez-faire attitude to the sale and possession of guns and how firearms are carried in public, unfortunately, is more the rule than the exception across the country. That’s thanks to the influence of the gun lobby and its ability to scare people against reasonable gun-control measures.
That said, however, Mississippi’s pro-gun mentality has consequences in terms of violent deaths and accidental shootings, and those consequences are felt as far away as Chicago.
That’s because Mississippi is a major supplier of illegal guns to Illinois’ largest city.
This past week, the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting released its probe into the one-way gun trade between Mississippi and Chicago.
The numbers are telling.
It reported that even though Chicago is about 600 miles from Mississippi’s northernmost state line, more illegal guns in Chicago can be traced back to Mississippi than any other Southern state. In fact, Mississippi, despite a population that only ranks as 35th highest in the country, is the third largest supplier nationwide of illegal guns to Chicago.
How is that?
Besides the lax gun laws which make trafficking in guns relatively easy in Mississippi, there are longtime historical ties between the two locales. As the MCIR article explains, between 1940 and 1980, an estimated 8% of Mississippi’s population moved to Illinois — a massive outmigration caused by increased mechanization on the farm, which reduced agricultural jobs in Mississippi, and the state’s violent resistance to desegregation. “This resulted in hundreds of thousands of familial connections between the two states,” the article’s author, Justin Vicory, writes.
Unfortunately, not all of those connections were peaceful. Some of them morphed over time into gang relationships. Thus, the conditions were created for a black-market enterprise to spring up in which firearms would be purchased in Mississippi, then resold and shipped to Chicago, where gun laws are more strict. The illegal gun trade from Mississippi is one of the factors that has contributed to Chicago’s high murder rate.
What can be done about this? Not much until Congress develops some backbone and insists on sensible gun controls, including the nationwide registration of firearms so as to make it easier to trace the ownership history of guns used in crimes. Even if Mississippi were to toughen up its own laws, an unlikely development in a state where the legislative trends have been in the opposite direction, it probably wouldn’t help Chicago much. Buyers of illegal guns there would just find another state to supply them.
The problem of the illegal gun trade requires a national solution to be effective.