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Proposal to expand gun offender registry earns inital approval

A Chicago City Council committee approved a mandatory gun offender registry yesterday that would require that all people convicted of a gun-related crime tell the city where they live.

Chicago Mayor Richard M Daley - 11/23/09 @Grea...
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) (Photo credit: kate.gardiner)

The legislation, sponsored by Ald. Edward Burke (14th), will create a gun registry for the city, which will act similarly to the mandatory registry used for sex offenders. The registry will be available to both the public and police officers out in the field. The registry will be available on the Internet and will include the offenders name, picture and address.

It is “similar to the Chicago police registry for sex offenders,” Burke said. “The gun offender registry will provide Chicago residents with the opportunity to alert themselves to the presence of gun offenders in their own community.”

The legislation, an amendment to the city’s current laws, got initial approval from the council’s Public Safety Committee. The proposed law will go to the City Council next Wednesday.

The registry will also help Chicago police by allowing them to quickly identify registered gun offenders by both address and license plate while responding to calls or disturbances.

While there is already a similar registry in place, it only applies to individuals charged and convicted with the unlawful use of a weapon.

Thomas Byrne, chief of the detective bureau, said often times when individuals are  convicted of multiple charges, a lesser charge (such as possession of illegal firearm) is dropped in exchange for a confession to a more serious offense.

There are  584 gun offenders registered on the city’s current list, but in 2012 Chicago police recovered approximately 7,000 guns.

“This proposed amendment is intended to cast a wider net, by expanding the definition of what a gun offender is from first time offenders to anyone who commits a violent crime with a firearm including acts of kidnapping assault, hijacking and a wide range of other offenses,” Burke said.

Similar laws in Baltimore, New York City and Washington D.C. have been implemented and proved to be effective, said Burke.

The registry will only apply to Chicago residents and will not include anyone who was convicted as a minor.

Rose Kelly, senior counsel at the city’s law department, said the amendment’s focus was on people living within the city and it would be difficult logistically to register people living in neighboring counties.

Chicago will be the first jurisdiction in Illinois to propose such an amendment.

“So if we do this, we will set the tone,” said Burke, “we will be the first jurisdiction to create what I think will be an effective tool for law enforcement and for citizens as well here in Chicago, Illinois.

Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) voiced the greatest concerns about the amendment, and said he was worried about the administrative steps and the manpower needed to make the registry effective.

“We just don’t want to get bitten by this,” Cochran said. “Because this is the right thing to do. This is the right thing to do.”

Priscilla Lopez and Kacy Hintz contributed to this article.


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