SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) — More communities are hit by mass shootings each year, but Illinois lawmakers know there are also shootings every day that draw less attention. The House’s Public Safety and Violence Prevention Task Force wants to help every community stay safe.
As laws in recent years have addressed gun control and violence prevention, leaders hope to find new solutions to keep people alive.
“It’s not about politics,” said Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago). “It’s about lives. It’s about welcoming all perspectives and implementing real solutions that can help save lives.
Ford began Thursday’s hearing with a moment of silence for victims of 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 helps police trace firearms used in crimes and identify illegal firearm users.
Executive Deputy Attorney General Adam Braun also explained that more and more people are becoming aware of the resources available under the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act. Still, some members argue that more should be done to help people understand that financial help is available after a tragedy.
“Often victims of crime, especially in our neighborhoods with the highest levels of poverty and violence, are not truly connected or feel unwell in government institutions,” Rep. Lindsey said. LaPointe (D-Chicago). “So I see this whole system needs to change and be more popular.”
Braun said Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s team has created an online option to help families of victims of gun violence access this funding. Eligible applicants could receive up to $40,000 from the AG’s office under the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act.
Some lawmakers also want to tackle guns entering Illinois from Indiana and Missouri. Elena Gottreich, deputy mayor of Chicago public safety, explained that the majority of illegal firearms come to Chicago from Illinois. Indiana is the second largest producer of illegal weapons in Chicago.
“The CPD has data, and specifically the ATF has data on particular areas of Indiana that are largely moving these guns across the border,” Gottreich said. “As anyone familiar with Chicago geography knows, Indiana from many places in the city is a 20-30 minute drive. So that makes logistical sense in addition to Indiana law why our second highest number comes from that state.
Illinois has committed more than $239 million in 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 say the State needs more sustainable investments to solve the problem.
“This nice historic pot of money that we have right now is great,” said representative Maura Hirschauer (D-Batavia). “But we’ve spoken with so many people who work in these violence-stopping programs on the ground and they’ve been doing this work not knowing if they’ll be funded next year.”
Law enforcement also pointed out that a major area of concern is the lack of follow-up to collect revoked FOID cards. In Cook County alone, about 33,000 people have revoked cards.
“Almost 20,000 of them didn’t follow the rule and turned in those FOID cards,” said Deputy Chief Arthur Jackson of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. “So they walk around with FOID cards.”
Members of the task force said they did not want to target law-abiding gun owners with new laws. Even though lawmakers banned ghost guns this year, most know that criminals will still find ways to create weapons in their homes. Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) suggested a ban on 3D printing equipment. However, a licensed arms dealer said that was virtually impossible.
Scott Pulaski, the owner of Piasa Armory in Alton, said people are allowed to create their own serialized firearms under state and federal laws. Pulaski said there really isn’t an easy way to stop the flow of anything into the state, whether it’s gun parts or consumer goods.
“Of course it is possible to pass a law,” Pulaski said. “But that doesn’t stop someone from driving in a different state and then buying that item and bringing it back.”
Pulaski also said Illinois should focus on enforcing existing gun laws to ensure those convicted of gun crimes are not released back into communities.
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