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Durbin Gets Gun Feedback from State's Top Cops

Officials say they need accountability, more resources and minimum sentencing requirements for criminals

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Sen. Dick Durbin is a member of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on the recommendations offered by the White House's Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

    Accountability. Minimum sentencing requirements. Increased manpower.

    Those were the main issues top law enforcement officials from around Illinois said they needed in order to combat gun violence in the state.

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    Sen. Dick Durbin convened the meeting with Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau and others in advance of next week's release of recommendations by the White House's Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

    McCarthy said there's one major difference between Chicago and New York City, where he served as that Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the NYPD: "guns."

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    To visualize his point, McCarthy pulled out an Uzi he said had just been taken off the streets the night earlier.

    "Every year, year in and year out, the Chicago Police Department seizes more firearms than any city in the country," McCarthy told Durbin. In 2012, there were 7,400 guns taken off the street.

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    Chicago's top cop repeated his call for a ban on military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, comprehensive background checks for all would-be firearm owners, documentation of every loss, theft or transfer of a weapon, and "significant, mandatory minimum sentencing" for those found possessing guns illegally.

    "None of these issues tell people they can't own firearms. What it does do is insert accountability and reasonability into the gun laws," he said.

    Sheriff Dart explained that the weakened economy has seriously hindered the ability of law enforcement agencies to fight crime. Since he's assumed office, Dart said he's already taken over policing duties for one suburb that's done away with its own department. Ten other communities, he said, may take the same action.

    "Suburban departments have been so horribly depleted that their ability to enforce the laws that are out there have been compromised a great deal," he said.

    That lack of manpower is also affecting the Illinois State Police, which issues Firearms Owner's Identification (FOID) Cards, its director said.

    Grau said minimal resources has made it difficult to keep tabs on those people who have been ruled mentally unstable by the courts and who shouldn't have a FOID.

    "We're attacking that backlog. It's a priority," he said.

    Regarding FOIDs, Dart also said they're at the center of a big loophole: many of those who have their licenses revoked keep their weapons.

    "We do not have the authority to go in their house and get their guns. It's a complete honor system," he said, adding it's a system he'd like to see changed.

    Additionally, the officials said they too often see those who have been locked up immediately back on the streets.

    "We get these guys, we catch them," said Cmdr. David McNaughton of the Chicago Police Department's 8th District. "We want them to stay in jail."

    Elsewhere Thursday, and because the Illinois General Assembly failed to take action, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he would propose to the City Council new gun control measures that he said are "common sense" and will withstand legal challenges.

    Vice President Joe Biden is overseeing the work of the federal task force and said he expects to offer a set of recommendations to the president by next Tuesday. Durbin is a member of the U.S. Senate's Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on those recommendations.