Durbin Meets with Peoria Law Enforcement Leaders to Discuss "Don't Shoot" Program

Says Gun Violence Legislation Will Be Debated on Senate Floor Next Week

[PEORIA, IL] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) met today with local law enforcement leaders and elected officials to hear how the City of Peoria is using the Don’t Shoot program to fight violent crime.  Peoria’s crime rate has fallen in the first three months of 2013 and city law enforcement estimates the number of gun-related emergency calls has dropped fifteen to thirty percent.


“Gun violence is plaguing many Illinois communities from Chicago to East St. Louis,” Durbin said.  “Peoria’s leadership has shown they are willing to think creatively to solve this problem, and today’s meeting gave me the opportunity to hear more about how they are working to make the city’s streets safer.”


Don’t Shoot, which Peoria began implementing in 2011, is a holistic violence-reduction program designed by David Kennedy, a member of the faculty at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  The program combines zero-tolerance policing strategies targeted at a city’s most violent gang members with increased access to employment services, housing and addiction counseling for at-risk individuals.  In Peoria, the program is currently providing services to approximately 18 individuals with gang affiliations and 12 others.  Last month, Peoria Chief of Police Steve Settingsgaard announced the campaign would expand to other parts of Central Illinois.


During the meeting, Durbin also briefed the officials on the gun violence legislation which the Senate will begin to consider next week.  One important piece of that legislation is the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act, which Durbin crafted along with a bipartisan group of colleagues including U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL).  The bill aims to shut down the pipeline of illicit guns that supplies criminals and gangs by punishing and deterring straw purchasing, an all-too-common practice in which someone with a clean background purchases a gun for another who cannot buy one themselves.


“Over the past several months I’ve met with law enforcement leaders across Illinois, and I’ve heard one thing from all of them: we need to keep guns away from the people who have no business owning them,” Durbin said.  “Straw purchasers help arm thugs and gangbangers without fear of serious consequences.  This bipartisan bill changes that.  When it comes to the floor this month, I urge my colleagues to support it.”


Under current law, straw purchasers can only be federally prosecuted under false statement laws that are difficult to prove and carry low penalties.  The Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act establishes the first specific straw purchasing offense in federal law, threatening up to 15 year prison sentences for straw purchasers that can increase to 25 years if the straw purchaser knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the gun will be used to commit a crime of violence. The bill also creates the first federal statute specifically criminalizing firearms trafficking, setting a penalty of up to 15 years imprisonment when a person transports or transfers guns to another person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the transferee’s possession of the gun would violate federal law.  The trafficking penalty can increase to 25 years if the trafficker is a leader of an organized gang.  The bill also toughens penalties for those who possess firearms in violation of existing law or who sell firearms to those prohibited purchasers, and complements existing law that prohibits smuggling guns into the United States by also making it a crime to smuggle firearms out of the United States.


In addition to Durbin’s bill, the Senate will also consider two other pieces of gun legislation next month.  One, the Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act, would ensure that a FBI background check is conducted on all firearms transactions, with reasonable exceptions.  The other, the School and Campus Safety Enhancements Act, reauthorizes the U.S. Department of Justice’s Secure Our Schools program, which provides grants for school security, and also creates a national center for campus public safety that would provide training and best practices to colleges and universities.


The Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Durbin sits, has held three hearings on the subject in recent weeks, including one on the Second Amendment which Durbin chaired.  It then passed the three pieces of legislation now moving to the Senate floor.  The committee also passed a bill to limit new assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.