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City Council panel moves to expand ‘gun offender registry’

Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) | Sun-Times files

Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) | Sun-Times files

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Updated: April 9, 2013 11:39AM



Chicago’s widely ignored “gun offender registry” would be broadened to include anyone who commits a violent crime with a firearm under a crackdown advanced Thursday to boost meager registration.

“When arranging for a play date with their child’s classmate and . . . going over to the classmate’s house, shouldn’t Mom and Dad have an opportunity to check whether a gun offender might be registered at that address?” said Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), who introduced the ordinance.

“When a Chicago Police officer rolls up to an address, shouldn’t that officer be able to check whether a gun offender is registered at that address, raising the potential for encountering a gun offender [or], when making a street stop, check to see if the license plate is registered to a gun offender before he walks up to the vehicle?”

Nearly three years ago, Burke persuaded the City Council to require anyone convicted of unlawful use or possession of a weapon to register with the Chicago Police Department within 48 hours after being released from prison.

The problem is, the ordinance has been widely ignored. The registry now has only 584 names, according to Chief of Detectives Tom Byrne.

On Thursday, Burke persuaded the Public Safety Committee to “cast a wider net” — by broadening the umbrella to include an array of violent crimes with a firearm, including kidnapping, assault, battery, home invasion, robbery, vehicular hijacking and armed violence.

The registry includes the names, aliases, birth dates, height, weight, eye color and driver’s license number of every offender, as well as a photo ID and details of their convictions.

During Thursday’s hearing, Burke argued that gun offender registries in Baltimore, New York and Washington have had a “deterrent effect on people who might be tempted to commit gun crimes again” — and traditionally have a higher rate of recidivism.

Fewer than 5 percent of 1,669 gun offenders in Baltimore have been arrested again on gun charges and just 25 percent have been re-arrested for any new charges, the alderman said. Washington, D.C., reported similar numbers.

“That seems rather compelling. This could be an effective tool for law enforcement and citizens as well,” just as registries of convicted sex offenders have been, Burke said.

Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), a former Chicago Police officer, questioned whether the Police Department has the manpower to handle a surge in gun offender registrations.

“There’s a lot of offenses here. . . . How many more people do we anticipate [needing]? . . . If we pass this and we have 10,000 or 15,000 more [registrations] that are required for the Police Department to satisfy these things, what kind of situation does that put us in?” Cochran said.



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