Durbin Visits Chicago Crime Gun Intelligence Center with ATF Director

[CHICAGO] – After a spate of shootings and gun deaths in Chicago in recent weeks, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with the Director of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), B. Todd Jones, at Chicago’s new Gun Crime Intelligence Center for a briefing on the center’s role in combating gun violence.

“For far too long, Chicago has been plagued with unacceptable levels of gun violence,” Durbin said. “I came here today to learn more about the innovative strategies being used to help combat gun violence. Chicago’s Crime Gun Intelligence Center is a great example of federal and local law enforcement working together to find new solutions to deep-rooted problems. The center—along with the addition of seven ATF agents to the Chicago field office—will help stop the flow of illegal handguns, solve gun crimes and prevent future gun violence.”

The center – which opened in June – is a coordinated effort between local and federal law enforcement agencies to address the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago, which is fueled in part by the growing number of guns that are illegally trafficked into the city from outside the region. Last week, the Department of Justice announced it is sending seven more ATF agents to join the 45 already stationed in Chicago to help stop the flow of illegal guns into the city.

Earlier this month, Durbin introduced an amendment that would strengthen federal criminal penalties for straw purchasers and illegal traffickers of firearms. Much of the gun violence in Chicago involves guns that were trafficked illegally or straw purchased – a practice that involves an individual with a clean background buying a gun for another individual who is prohibited from obtaining one. Under Durbin’s amendment, a person who transfers a gun to another individual knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the gun will be used to commit a crime of violence, that person will face up to 15 years in federal prison.

The problems of straw purchasing and illegal gun trafficking are well known, but current federal law creates an inadequate deterrent for these practices. After 82 people were shot – 14 fatally – in Chicago over the July 4th weekend, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel both called for action to crack down on straw purchasing and illegal trafficking and shut down the pipeline of guns that supplies Chicago’s criminal gun market.

The amendment Durbin introduced earlier this month is similar in intent to the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013, which Durbin introduced last year with Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

This bill aims to combat the practice of straw purchasing and illegal trafficking in firearms by establishing the first specific straw purchasing offense in federal law, and by also creating the first federal statute specifically criminalizing firearms trafficking. 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. The legislation fell short of requiring the 60 votes needed to advance in a Senate floor vote in April 2013.

Durbin has also introduced legislation to encourage law enforcement agencies to take advantage of the federal gun tracing resources available to help them crack down on gun violence. Durbin’s Crime Gun Tracing Act creates strong incentives for law enforcement agencies to report 100 percent of the crime guns they recover to the ATF National Tracing Center, a practice many agencies do not currently follow. Crime gun tracing can help generate leads in criminal investigations and reveal how guns are trafficked into criminals’ hands. More information on that bill is available here.