City Sees Assault Weapons Increase on Streets

ATF: Use of heavy caliber, military-style weapons up 17 percent this year

The trends are alarming.

Chicago numbers show the number of assault weapons are up 17 percent this year on city streets, and the ages of criminals using guns is getting much younger with a growing number of weapons being used at the hands teenagers.

"They see them in movies, they seem them on television and in video games, and it's like, "Ooh, let's get one of those.  It gives them a lot of street cred," said Andrew Traver, the Special Agent in charge at Chicago’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The ATF's Gun Center tracks the worst areas for assault-type weapons.  A map shows identifies neighborhoods on the city's south side with especially troubling statistics. 

Traver says the power and randomness of the heavy caliber, military-style weapons make them so dangerous not only to people, but to police.  They're so powerful, body armor can't withstand a hit, and they're so difficult to control, their bullets often get sprayed beyond the intended targets, striking innocent victims even when they’re in their own homes.

That's how Denise Reed lost her 14-year- old daughter, Starkesia.  A stray bullet blasted through their home.

"An AK-47 from nearly a block away.  She had no chance," Reed said. "There has to be a purpose to this pain."

Starkesia's murderer, Carail Weeks, purchased the weapon from an Indiana gun dealer with a falsified ID.  He was recently sentenced to 150 years behind bars.

"I don't know if people realize how powerful this weapon is," Reed said.  "These types of guns, there are too many.  There are way too many, and they're in the wrong hands."

The assault weapons ban expired in 2004.  For now, the White house says stimulus money should help police, and says  there is a greater focus on fighting gun trafficking. 
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