Fining gun offenders is the right move. Keep seeking more ways to reduce gun violence.

Gunfire is terrorizing too much of the city, and guns often are also behind such crime as carjackings and armed robbery. Chicago cannot afford to be complacent.

SHARE Fining gun offenders is the right move. Keep seeking more ways to reduce gun violence.
Chicago police work the scene where a man and a woman were shot and killed while traveling in a vehicle in the 2300 block of West 21st Street in Pilsen on Nov. 14.

Chicago police work the scene where a man and a woman were shot and killed while traveling in a vehicle in the 2300 block of West 21st Street in Pilsen on Nov. 14.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Time

The large size of Chicago’s illegal firearms market is a key driver in gun crime, according to research the city did during the Rahm Emanuel administration. So the City Council is right to think more needs to be done to get guns off the street.

On Wednesday, the Council approved an ordinance pushed by Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) that empowers Chicago police officers to issue “administrative notices of violation” to people who possess guns illegally. For the first offense, the penalty will be a $5,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail. For the second offense, it will be up to $20,000 and 180 days in jail.

Gunfire is terrorizing too much of the city, and guns often are also behind such crime as carjackings and armed robbery. Chicago cannot afford to be complacent.

The ordinance is the right move.

It certainly won’t be a cure-all — there is no magic bullet to the problem — and it’s reasonable to wonder how much of an impact it will have. Some people who have the resources will just pay the fines. Others won’t have the money to do so. City resources might be tied up in pursuing violations, even as cases might wind up getting dismissed.

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But the status quo is simply not acceptable. There are simply too many shootings. Napolitano noted the city has had 630 gun homicides this year and more than 3,252 people shot. Homicides are down from last year, but 2021 saw more than 800 homicides, the highest number in a quarter century.

On Friday afternoon, two teens were killed and two others wounded in a shooting outside Juarez High School. And on Wednesday, three people were killed by gunfire and seven were injured across the city. The daily drumbeat of shootings has become woven into the fabric of the city.

Ald. Matt O’Shea said on Friday the council hoped to give police another tool in the toolbox to try to get guns off the street, at a time when the police department is down by more than 1,800 positions. Many of those who unlawfully carry guns are repeat gun offenders, he said.

Cracking down on illegal gun possession is a tough job. When police find illegal guns, the weapons often are in automobile glove compartments, consoles or trunks. If more than one person is in the car, they all can deny ownership.

We’re told many cops aren’t even bringing in cases of unlawful possession of guns because they believe the cases won’t result in charges, or if they do, that the cases will just get tossed out. Many of those who carry guns illegally are too young to apply for FOID cards or concealed carry permits.

Yet the city must press forward with efforts to keep illegal guns from flooding its communities. The ordinance is a way to do so.

Napolitano’s ordinance was criticized as being part of a long pattern — especially seen in election seasons — in which police and public officials engage in press conferences, press releases or lawmaking that makes a splash but does too little to address the lack of investment in communities and employment, which should be part of any long-term solution to gun violence.

Still, along with the great power of guns to inflict harm comes great responsibility. The city will never be safe if a large number of residents carry weapons in defiance of the law, even if they say they are doing so merely to protect themselves. More guns mean more gun crime. Often, we see horrific incidents that would never have resulted in loss of life had no one possessed a gun, often illegally.

Those who opposed Napolitano’s ordinance should do more than focus on its flaws. They should be proposing concrete ways to get guns off the streets now. Incessant gunfire undermines efforts to rebuild communities. Those who supported his ordinance should continue looking for additional steps that are effective and carefully drawn.

Chicago, along with governments at every level, must keep working to reduce gun violence as much as possible, in ways that are fair and ensure justice for all is served.

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