Part of a shipment of semiautomatic assault rifles was stolen this week from a freight train container at a rail yard in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, federal authorities and a railroad spokesman said.
The 13 Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport rifles were stolen from a yard located in the 6100 block of South Lafayette Avenue sometime between Sunday and Tuesday, a spokesman with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said.
“We’re hoping to recover them before they’re … used in any type of crime,” said Special Agent Thomas Ahern, spokesman for the ATF’s Chicago field office.
The assault rifles were taken from a load of 50 weapons in a Norfolk Southern container, said a railroad spokesman, who declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation. The Chicago Police Department said it could not find any information about the theft.
Ahern said the weapons were destined for a licensed gun dealer out of state. The rail car was stopped in the yard when the theft occurred.
The popular semi-automatic rifle comes equipped with a 30-round magazine designed to fire 5.56mm ammunition, commonly referred to as “NATO rounds.”
City leaders have often denounced the presence of such weapons in Chicago, pointing to incidents such as last September’s shooting at Cornell Square Park in the Back of the Yards neighborhood that wounded 13 people.
The scene around the park’s bloodied basketball court was littered with 7.62×39 shell casings, rounds consistent with witnesses’ descriptions of a gunman wielding an AK-47 assault rifle. The type of weapon used in that shooting remains relatively rare for street violence. Federal data show 97 percent of shooting deaths involve handguns.
But Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called for a nationwide assault weapon ban and sought to tighten the city’s ban after the state legislature approved concealed-carry laws.