Sen. Durbin, local officials hold hearing on combating gun trafficking, reducing violence in Chicago

Chicago Crime

CHICAGO — A federal lawmaker and local officials held a meeting Monday to speak about the gun problem in Chicago.

Sen. Dick Durbin led the meeting that focused on how to combat gun trafficking and reduce violence specifically in Chicago. Illinois lawmakers questioned federal agencies including the CDC, the ATF and the Chicago Police Department about what they’re doing to help get a handle on gun crimes.

The big takeaway from the hearing was that there needs to be more coordination among agencies and congress might need to get involved to change some laws. It’s not just a Chicago problem. Homicide records have been broken all over the country this year in Red and Blue states alike.

“This is not just about numbers, real people real lives. Empty chairs at the dinner table at the family they leave behind,” Durbin said.

The panel met with lawmakers at the federal courthouse. The US Attorney, the CDC and the Chicago Police Department were all key players in the discussion.

2021 is shaping up to be one of the worst years for deadly violence in the city’s history.

“That is not normal,” Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky said. “Other nations do not see that level of murder.”

Here in Chicago, there are fewer cops because of retirement and Covid.

In Cook County, more than 4,000 people have been shot this year. While the violence is concentrated in about 15 neighborhoods, no place is immune.

Leaders at the hearing said Chicago is awash in guns and they are largely coming in from other places.

Durbin pushed the US Attorneys officer on why there are not more straw purchaser prosecutions. He wanted to know from the ATF why the Chicago office is doing so few field inspections of gun shops compared to other offices.

Durbin also asked why so many untraceable ghost guns are turning up on Chicago streets. Guns that have no serial numbers and are often purchased online and assembled at home.

This year Chicago police have confiscated 430 compared to last year’s 130, including the one that recently killed 71-year-old Woom Sing Tse in Chinatown.

Chicago police Supt. David Brown said his officers have pulled 12,000 guns off the streets this year, more than any other year in history. But he said more has to be done, especially in the courts.

“Yet there is no federal law against gun trafficking,” Brown said. “Federal sentencing guidelines should reflect severity of our gun violence problem.”

Gun shops in neighboring states have contributed to the gun violence in Chicago. A gun take in a smash and grab in Wisconsin was linked to 27 shootings in the city.

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Congressman Danny Davis opened up at the meeting on a personal level and talked about how his grandson was shot and killed. He said it wouldn’t have happened if there hadn’t been a gun available.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx office issued a statement following the hearing that read, “Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx appreciates the Senator having an in depth hearing on the rise of gun violence across the country. Recognizing the seriousness of the subject matter, the Senator did not allow for testimony that was purely for political posturing, instead focusing on finding meaningful solutions. The State’s Attorney continues to work with our local and federal law enforcement partners to address violence in our communities. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office approved charges in 86% of adult felony arrests this year in Chicago and Cook County.  We are happy to have a conversation and share relevant data if and when that is appropriate with stakeholders, leaders, and the community.” 

Durbin said he intends to make straw purchasing a federal crime and that much of what they heard at Monday’s hearing will be taken back to Washington for action.

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