• Brian Jackson/Sun-Times Media
  • These guns are among more than 1,800 illegal weapons that Chicago police have recovered since the first of the year.

As Congress takes up some of President Obama’s gun control proposals, officials in his hometown have sent a message about where they stand, responding to a wave of bloodshed by toughening already stringent local firearm laws.

Less clear is what the laws have accomplished. Thousands of gun owners in Chicago are ignoring the regulations, surrounding areas have looser regulations, and demand remains high for guns through both legal and illegal avenues.

Even supporters of the city’s gun laws admit they don’t address the social problems behind the shootings that continue to plague Chicago—400 so far this year. “You can try to legislate morality but it’s really not something you can do,” says Jason Ervin, alderman of the 28th Ward, a stretch of Chicago’s west side battered by crime and disinvestment. “But I would hope people comply with the laws.”

Lots of people don’t.