Fining people for illegal gun possession will not make us safer

Implementing excessive fines for people who carry guns will waste city resources by pursuing payments from those who are mostly unable to pay them, and will drain needed resources from poor communities.

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A Chicago police officer takes pictures of a crime scene Dec. 16 at Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen after a school shooting.

A Chicago police officer takes pictures of a crime scene Dec. 16 at Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen after a school shooting.

Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times

The arguments for new penalties for illegal gun possession have been driven by a narrative that Chicago’s existing gun possession laws are not leading to enough arrests, charges or convictions, or that the current Cook County state’s attorney is “soft” on guns. These narratives are simply false. On the contrary, Chicago is aggressively policing and prosecuting unlicensed gun possession.

The recent Sun-Times editorial states that the board has been told that “many cops aren’t even bringing cases of unlawful possession of guns because they believe the cases won’t result in charges.” That claim is roundly contradicted by publicly available data. First, Chicago police arrest data shows that gun possession arrests are at the highest rate they have ever been; despite the fact that arrest rates overall have fallen during the pandemic, arrests for gun possession offenses were 80% higher in 2022 than in 2019. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office’s publicly available data also shows that gun possession charges referred by police were approved for prosecution 88% of the time in 2022, and 79% of gun possession charges resolved in 2022 resulted in convictions.

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Doubling down on existing and punitive criminalization of gun possession will not prevent violence in our communities. Implementing excessive fines for people who carry guns illegally will waste city resources by pursuing payments from those who are mostly unable to pay them, and will drain needed resources from poor communities.

Chicago should instead invest in comprehensive, community-based violence prevention that focuses on emerging adults — the group most likely to carry guns illegally — and focus on solutions that evidence shows can truly reduce violence, like increased job opportunities, trauma-informed mental health services, violence interruption and restorative justice practices. These provide the real path to turning the tide on gun violence.

Sarah Staudt, director of policy, Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts

‘Fashion police’ don’t know international affairs

Republican right-wingers just couldn’t resist criticizing the olive drab sweatshirt and cargo pants Volodymyr Zelenskyy wore to both the White House and to his own address to a joint session of Congress. Apparently, they decided to focus on his clothes and ignore the death and destruction that is happening every day in Ukraine, and the fact that he is trying to save his people and his country from unprovoked aggression by Vladimir Putin.

Instead, Tucker Carlson said that Zelenskyy was “dressed like the manager of a strip club who started to demand money. Amazingly, no one threw him out.”

Donald Trump, Jr., managed to go even lower than Carlson (not an easy feat) by saying that “Zelenskyy is basically an ungrateful international welfare queen.” Just when you thought they couldn’t go any lower.

I, for one, will sleep a lot better tonight, secure in the knowledge that the GOP’s “Fashion Police,” led by pampered rich boys like Carlson and Trump, Jr., are on the job, focusing on what’s most important in our world.

Bob Chimis, Elmwood Park

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