PHOTOS: Exclusive look inside CPD`s confiscated gun vault - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

PHOTOS: Exclusive look inside CPD`s confiscated gun vault

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Chicago police have seized more than 1,000 illegal guns so far this year, but it may only be a drop in the bucket compared to how many are actually out there on the streets.

For police, every gun taken away from a gang-banger or a convicted felon helps, but the magnitude of the problem is more than police alone can handle.

A look around the police gun vault paints a dramatic picture of the problem the superintendent has been talking about since he took over the Chicago Police Department.

Stacks of rifles, shotguns and assault weapons line one side of the aisles in the vault. On the other side, sit white evidences bags containing handguns; so many they are stacked in containers on the floor because there is no room to put them anywhere else.

"There's about 70,000 guns total in this vault," Superintendent Gary McCarthy says, showing FOX 32's Craig Wall around. "If you look at this, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 high, this is what probably 45 yards of just handguns."

According to the superintendent, many of the weapons were seized in the last five years; 7,400 last year alone. How are they recovered?

"Sometimes search warrants from investigations, sometimes stops on the streets, sometimes traffic stops, sometimes responding to shootings and grabbing people along the way, all different methodologies," McCarthy explains. "But the point is Craig, we can keep seizing the guns, right and we can keep locking up the bad guys which is what we're doing, we're not gonna get the results we need unless something changes."

McCarthy has held regular press conferences this year touting the guns that have been taken off the streets: 1,100 in two months. He has also pointed out the bad guys connected to shootings who had been on the streets because Illinois does not have mandatory minimum sentences for gun possession.

Alderman Willie Cochran has been among those on the city council holding McCarthy's feet to the fire for the guns and violence.

We asked him about the gun press conferences.

"Is this a dog and pony show or is it making a difference? The public wants to know that some things are being done, and this is a way that the superintendent is delivering that information to people through press conferences demonstrating that police officers are out there hustling and recovering guns," Cochran says.

The superintendent says about 70 percent of the guns seized in Chicago are handguns; many with high-capacity ammunition, holding more rounds than police officers carry. But, it's the assault rifles that concern him the most.

"Because, these bullets will penetrate the officer's vest and if they're armor-piercing they'll penetrate the engine block of a vehicle," McCarthy says.

Many of those weapons are coming from gun shows, where unlicensed collectors sell alongside legitimate gun dealers. But the collectors aren't required to do background checks, making it easier for gangs to acquire guns.

"The vast majority of crimes guns that are recovered in the city of Chicago and throughout the state of Illinois originated in the state of Illinois," ATF Special Agent Tom Ahern says. "The number two state is Indiana."

Efforts are underway to slow down the flow of guns to Chicago, including working with authorities in Indiana to crack down on gun shows.

McCarthy says he can't estimate how many guns are coming onto the streets for every gun taken off, but knows it's "an overwhelming flow."

Superintendent McCarthy says they are close to rolling out some new initiatives for combating guns on the streets aimed at keeping down the violence, especially as we head into the spring and summer when violence tends to increase.

McCarthy also says he is not worried that the continued violence could jeopardize his future in Chicago. The last person who got the mayor's 100 percent support--which McCarthy received last week--was Jean Claude-Brizard, who two weeks after that, lost his job.

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