CHICAGO | Far more of the guns seized at crime scenes in Illinois come from Illinois than any other state.

You cannot legally buy a handgun in Chicago, the nation's most murderous city.

You can own one, but only if you've owned it since before 1982 and you register it every year with the Chicago Police Department.

Gun-control advocates and gun-rights advocates don't -- or can't -- agree on how a city with a handgun ban can lead the nation in murder.

At city's edge

Indiana Avenue cuts a straight line south from the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant into Riverdale, past a row of boarded-up and abandoned buildings.

At 143rd Street, on the right, sits Chuck's Gun Shop and Pistol Range in Riverdale, one of the closest places to legally buy a handgun outside Chicago's city limits.

A trip to Chuck's on a recent weekday morning saw nearly 30 patrons walk through the door in the space of an hour. They were there for guns. Trade-in, apply for, shop or rent -- it's all available at Chuck's.

In 2006, Chuck's won the Dealer Recruiter of the Year Award from the National Rifle Association for getting the most patrons to join the National Rifle Association.

Employees wear handguns in hip holsters, and before they'll let customers see or touch anything, they ask to see their firearm owner's identification card.

According to Illinois law, anyone who owns or wants to own a firearm must apply for a gun card, as the FOID is commonly known. Once approved for a card, there's a 72-hour waiting period from the time you buy a handgun to the time you can pick it up. You can buy as many guns as you want at once, but at Chuck's you can only take possession of one every 31 days, a Riverdale ordinance.

John Riggio, owner of Chuck's Gun Shop, said most of his business is in handgun sales and his customers are mostly blue collar.

He said he doubts there is any relationship between guns and gun violence.

The law

Chicago passed its handgun ban nearly 27 years ago, on April 9, 1982. In the wake of a 2008 Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, its legality is being challenged.

After the Supreme Court decided that a federal district could not prohibit handguns, the NRA and the Illinois State Rifle Association challenged the Chicago ban. A circuit court judge dismissed the suit but it is on appeal in the 7th Circuit.

Jennifer Hoyle, director of public affairs for the city's law department, said that until the courts say otherwise, the city's handgun ban will remain in effect.

The Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, which lists gun violence as one of its six priority issues, chooses not to take sides in the debate over gun control.

"What we are in favor of," spokesman Charlie Boesel said, "is a reduction in gun violence."


The Joyce Foundation offers grant money to groups looking to study the problem or with ideas on how to address it.

According to a new study released this week by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which received funding from the Joyce Foundation, gun violence costs Chicago taxpayers $2.5 billion a year, the equivalent of $2,500 per household.

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