Deadly Dixie pipeline: How Mississippi guns wind up in hands of Chicago gangs

Published 3:01 pm Thursday, August 29, 2019

Between 1940 and 1980, the state’s population grew by 1 million yet the number of native-born residents only increased by 60,000 in that 40-year stretch, according to a New York Times study.

The reason?

Black Mississippians moved to the North, with a majority to Chicago. The Great Migration stemmed from a demand for factory workers during the world wars, a time that also coincided with the state’s entrenched segregationist practices. Combined, it was a good enough reason for the state’s black residents to flee the state’s segregated neighborhoods and schools.

By 1980, about 8% of the total Mississippi population moved to Illinois, according to the Times study. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of familial connections between the two states.

A “vast majority” of illegally used or possessed firearms are obtained through an offender’s social network, family or other personal connections, a 2015 survey of Cook County Jail inmates found.

“Only 60 percent of those firearms were actually purchased for cash, the remaining 40 percent were traded, shared or temporarily loaned to the offender, sometimes due to the fact that the gun was previously used in a crime,” according to the Chicago Gun Trace Report.

Taken together, the high number of familial connections between Chicago and Mississippi residents, and the ease with which guns can be acquired in Mississippi, has made gun trafficking more common between the two locations than from any other Southern state.

“It has to do with racial segregation in the South and opportunities in the North,” said Supervisory Special Agent Joe Waller, Trafficking Group, Chicago Field Division of the ATF.

“What this means in the world of firearm trafficking is that there are still a lot of family ties between Mississippi and Chicago, and we generally look for those family connections when we see Mississippi firearms recovered in Chicago.”

Gang migration

Chicago, according to the city’s Crime Commission, has more gang members (150,000) than any other city in the U.S. Some of its most prominent gangs have deep roots in Mississippi.

The Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords and the Simon City Royals, the state’s three largest street gangs, were all originally established in Chicago.