Illinois lawmakers look for new solutions to gun violence
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - More communities are impacted by mass shootings each year, but Illinois lawmakers know there are also shootings every day that get less attention. The House Public Safety and Violence Prevention Task Force wants to help every community stay safe.
While laws in recent years have addressed gun control and violence prevention, leaders hope to find new solutions to keep people alive.
“This isn’t about politics,” said Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago). “This is about lives. This is about welcoming all perspectives and putting into action real solutions that can help save lives.”
Ford started Thursday’s hearing with a moment of silence for those lost to gun violence in Highland Park, Chicago, and other communities across the state.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office told the task force that 40 law enforcement agencies have signed up to use the new Crime Gun Connect program launched last month. The online portal is helping police trace guns used during crimes and identify unlawful gun users.
Executive Deputy Attorney General Adam Braun also explained that more people are becoming aware of resources available through the Crime Victims Compensation Act. Still, some members argue more should be done to help people understand financial aid is available after a tragedy.
“Oftentimes victims of crime, especially in our neighborhoods with the highest levels of poverty and violence, aren’t really connected or don’t feel great about government institutions,” said Rep. Lindsey LaPointe (D-Chicago). “So, I see that whole system needing to change and be more grassroots.”
Braun said Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s team has created an online option to help families of gun violence victims get access to that funding. Eligible applicants could receive up to $40,000 from the AG’s office under the crime victims compensation law.
Some lawmakers also want to address guns coming into Illinois from Indiana and Missouri. Elena Gottreich, Chicago’s Deputy Mayor of Public Safety, explained the majority of illegal guns are coming to Chicago from within Illinois. The second-highest producer of illegal guns into Chicago is Indiana.
“The CPD does have data, and specifically the ATF has data on the particular areas in Indiana that are largely getting those guns across the border,” said Gottreich. “As anyone familiar with Chicago geography is aware, Indiana from many places in the city is a 20-30 minute drive. So, it makes somewhat logistical sense in addition to legislation in Indiana why our second-highest number is coming from that state.”
Illinois has committed more than $239 million to youth development and violence prevention funding for Fiscal Years 2022, 2023, and 2024. That will help over the next few years, but some lawmakers and advocates argue the state needs more sustainable investments to address the issue.
“This nice historic pot of money that we have right now is great,” said Rep. Maura Hirschauer (D-Batavia). “But we’ve been talking with so many people that are working in these boots-on-the-ground violence interruption programs and they’ve been doing this work maybe not knowing if they’ll be funded the next year.”
Law enforcement also stressed that a major area of concern is the lack of follow-up to collect revoked FOID cards. In Cook County alone, there are about 33,000 people have revoked cards.
“Nearly 20,000 of them have not followed the rule and turned in those FOID cards,” said Deputy Chief Arthur Jackson with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. “So, they’re walking around with FOID cards.”
Task force members said they don’t want to target law-abiding gun owners with new laws. Even though lawmakers passed a ban on ghost guns this year, most know that criminals will still find ways to create the weapons at home. Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) suggested a prohibition on 3D printing equipment. However, a licensed gun dealer said that is practically impossible.
Scott Pulaski, the owner of Piasa Armory in Alton, said people are allowed to create their own serialized guns under state and federal law. Pulaski said there’s not really an easy way to stop the flow of anything into the state, whether it is firearm parts or consumer goods.
“Sure, it’s possible to pass a law,” Pulaski said. “But that doesn’t stop somebody from driving to a different state, and then purchasing that item, and bringing it back.”
Pulaski also said Illinois should focus on enforcing existing gun laws to ensure people who are convicted of gun crimes aren’t released back into communities.
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