Police say the most recent case involved the burglary of more than 200 guns from Maxon Shooters Supplies in Des Plaines. On Sunday, thieves broke the door down with a sledgehammer, then smashed a glass display case in the store and took the weapons.
Police say the suspects who robbed the store in Des Plaines on Sunday immediately brought the stolen weapons to Englewood, allegedly so they could sell them on the street.
"We don't know how many lives we just saved by this happening," said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
Investigators say these were high-quality weapons with a street value of between $500 to $1,000 each.
"They're as good or better than some of the guns we use in law enforcement," said Chicago Police Chief Nick Roti. "They're Glocks and Kimbers and SIGs. They're high-quality weapons."
Police have arrested four suspects so far in what they is an ongoing investigation. Seventeen-year-old Trevell Allen, 17-year-old Emmanuel Warner, 18-year-old Brandon McGee and 19-year-old Darnell Holmes are each charged with the possession or sale of stolen firearms.
Chicago police say this bust brings the number of guns confiscated so far this year to 481. That is a 40 percent increase over this time last year when police had taken in 341 guns. They say it will have a definite impact on the amount of violence on the streets.
"All too often, Superintendent McCarthy and I stand before you announcing murder charges in cases in which illegal guns like these are being used in the murder of a police officer or the murder of an innocent child," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.
In addition to the guns they recovered, police said they recovered several thousand dollars in cash.
The four suspects are being held on bond. Police say they are looking for several more people as the investigation is ongoing.
Gun shops are natural targets for thieves. The rash of burglaries is renewing calls for a statewide law requiring more stringent management of gun shop inventories, prompting some municipalities to take action now.
The owners of Downrange Sports in New Lenox say 15 guns were stolen in two December robberies. New Lenox police say low-quality store surveillance video shows a group of four men entering the store through a broken window and quickly making off with the guns
"It's not a good thing for the community. It's not a good thing for the area," said New Lenox Chief Police Bob Sterba.
The chief says two of the guns have since been recovered during routine traffic stops in Shorewood and Joliet.
The Will County Sheriff's office says similar methods and speed were employed in early December by robbers who hit Rink's Gun and Sport in Lockport, a 30-year-old business with a busy shooting range and an excellent relationship with the local police.
"Somebody in that crew had probably been in the store, had really spent some time looking around," said Ken Kaupas, Will County Sheriff's Department spokesperson. "They knew exactly where the weapons they wanted were."
Lyons police confirm Midwest Sporting Goods was robbed December 15. Police say the store's quality surveillance equipment shows a gang of four gaining access by cutting iron bars on a door and making off with mostly replica guns. They got real gun magazines and ammunition too.
"These crews are becoming more brazen," Kaupas said.
Currently, store owners do not have to lock up their inventory, but New Lenox for one is working on a village ordinance that would require gun shops to store firearms in vaults upon locking up shop. One of Downrange's partners said the cost of doing that would consume his retirement savings.
"I think that a responsible jewelry store owner would lock up his inventory because it is in his interest to do so, and in this case it would be in the gun store owner's interest to lock his inventory up, and also in the community's interest," said Sterba.
State legislators interviewed by ABC 7 are reluctant to increase the cost of doing business for small stores, including gun shops.