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City looks to expand gun registry rules

  • An assortment of weapons representing the types seized by members of the Chicago Police Department in the first two weeks of the new year sit on display prior to a press conference to discuss the city's growing number of illegal firearms at the Gresham (6th) District in Chicago.
An assortment of weapons representing the types seized by members of the… (Anthony Souffl?/ Chicago…)
March 07, 2013|By Leonor Vivanco, @lvivanco | RedEye

Chicagoans convicted of committing violent crimes with guns could appear on a city gun registry under an ordinance advanced Thursday by City Council committee.

Since 2010, any person convicted of unlawful use or possession of a firearm who lives, works or attends school in the city has been required to register with the Chicago police department as a gun offender.

There are currently 584 gun offenders registered, said Chief Thomas Byrne of the Bureau of Detectives. Their names, addresses, photos and descriptions of the offense are included in the registry.

The amendment to the ordinance, which was endorsed by the City Council Committee on Public Safety, would expand the definition of gun offender to include convictions of violent crimes with a firearm such as kidnapping, assault, robbery, home invasion and carjacking.

Ald. Edward Burke (14th), who proposed the changes to strengthen the ordinance, said there was evidence to suggest that gun offender registry laws deter people from committing gun crimes.

For example, Baltimore, which created its registry in 2007 a year after New York City, fewer than 5 percent of the city's 1,669 gun offenders on the registry have been arrested again on new gun charges, Burke said. Only 25 percent, he said, have been arrested again on any new charge.

The amendment would extend the amount of time a convict has to register from 48 hours to five days after getting out of prison or receiving a sentence if there is no jail time.

The police department would work with the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office to notify offenders in writing when they are released or sentenced if there is no jail time. That way, the department becomes aware of who should be registering as a gun offender.

Offenders would be required to report in person to the police department each year of four-year registration period. If they don't register, they face a fine of $300 to $500 or up to six months in jail.

"Quite frankly, it puts people who have been convicted of gun violence on notice that we haven't forgotten about you," Byrne said of the amended ordinance.

The police department posts the name and address of every registered gun offender on its website so anybody can search for offenders within an eighth-, quarter- or half-mile of a specific address, like the sex offender database.

Not only is the database beneficial to the community, but it is also helpful to the police officers on duty, Burke said.

"When a Chicago cop rolls up to an address for a call of a domestic dispute or whatever, shouldn't that officer be able to check on his computer to see whether or not a gun offender is registered at that address thereby enhancing his awareness and raising his awareness of the potential of encountering a convicted gun offender?" Burke said.

Gun offenders who have their convictions reversed on appeal or are pardoned would be exempt from the ordinance.

The amendment goes to the City Council for consideration at its March 13 meeting. If passed, it would go into effect in April.

lvivanco@tribune.com

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