By CHARLIE DE MAR
CHICAGO (WBBM) — Several Chicago aldermen are fed up with violence and say it is time to crack down on illegal guns.
This week, the City Council passed an ordinance allowing police to impose fines and jail time on people caught with an illegal gun – regardless of what happens in court.
But as CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported Friday night, not everyone is on board.
Supporters of the new ordinance say something needs to be done to try and reduce violent crime – and argue that this is simply a tool for officers. But critics say this is nothing more than political posturing, and will further erode trust between the community and the criminal justice system.
A total of 12,000 illegal guns were taken off Chicago streets in 2021. Now, the new ordinance will allow police officers to write a ticket that would impose fines and jail time to those caught with a gun.
“We’ve got to try something else,” said Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), “because the Cook County State’s Attorney office is failing us.”
Ald. O’Shea supported the ordinance, which passed the City Council this week. He is critical of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, and what he calls Foxx’s failure to punish gun offenders properly.
“Quite frankly, if our judicial partners aren’t going to do their job, then we’re going to look at trying to add a tool for law enforcement to have,” O’Shea said.
Get caught once with an illegal gun, and the violation will come with a maximum $5,000 fine and 90 days in jail. Get caught a second time, and that fine can jump to $20,000 and 180 days behind bars.
If the charges were to be dropped or reduced by the States Attorney’s office, that person would still be accountable to the city.
“There is absolutely no evidence – not one study – that suggests that imposing astronomical fines on people who have already been convicted is going to increase public safety,” said Sheila Bedi, a clinical law professor at the Pritzker School of Law at Northwestern University.
Bedi opposes the ordinance, and says the city should be investing in proven gun violence solutions.
“Investing in things like restorative justice; investing in things like mental health services; providing job opportunities,” Bedi said. “What City Council has done is doubled down on a punitive approach – which is only going to further penalize our Black and brown communities.”
Ald. Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) also is against the new crackdown on illegal guns.
“I think it’s going to create distrust in the system, I think it’s going to confuse people, and I think the last thing that we want is using our limited resources on things that the Law Department should not be focusing on,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
But O’Shea countered: “This targets people who carry illegal guns. People are sick and tired of the gun violence.”
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office declined to comment on this issue.
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