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Some suburban gun owners wary of Cook County proposal

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Chicago Tribune
by Alexandra Chachkevitch

Suburban reaction seems mixed to a proposal by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to fine people who don't report in a timely manner that their firearms are missing or stolen. Scheduled for a vote by the county board on Feb. 5, Preckwinkle sees the proposal as a way to help fight gun violence. But some suburban gun owners say it wouldn't do much good.  "Having this (law) is meaningless," said Don Mastrianni, owner of Illinois Gun Works in Elmwood Park. "It's not going to change anything." Mastrianni, who has operated the gun shop and shooting range for nearly 11 years, said any responsible gun owner would routinely report a missing or stolen firearm. In addition, federal law already requires that gun owners maintain a record of what happens to their firearms, he said. Under the county proposal, people who don't report their missing guns to the sheriff within 48 hours would be fined at least $1,000. The county ordinance would apply everywhere outside of Chicago, which has its own statue, Preckwinkle said. Jurisdictions that already have analogous ordinance probably would not need to abide by the new county law, she said. Preckwinkle said the proposal is designed to make it tougher for people who buy guns legally to resell them to gang members. "We want to be sure those who purchase guns behave responsibly, and are not part of the difficult problems we face on the streets," Preckwinkle said recently. Chicago issues penalties of up to $5,000 and 90 days in jail for failure to report a gun that is lost, stolen or transferred. But it's unclear if the law is helping reduce the violence. In 2012, there were 506 homicides in the city, a 16 percent increase over 2011, and the majority involved handguns. "I can't speak to what's happened at the city," Preckwinkle said. "My view is we should take every measure that we possibly can to diminish the violence in our streets, and this is one we think is appropriate, and will have some impact." Some suburban leaders say it's better to enact tougher measures when it comes to guns. "I think this law becomes an essential tool in protecting the public of Cook County," said County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston. "We've had way too many straw purchasers and careless gun owners who allow weapons to be out of their control." He said he hopes the state, which currently has a similar ordinance in the works, also passes its proposal. "The best thing for all of us is to have a state unified system for this," Suffredin said. But for now, he said, this ordinance would assist in tracking down criminals. Arlington Heights Police Chief Gerald Mourning said he supports the proposal and stricter gun laws nationwide. "It's difficult enough to track firearms when you aren't even reporting the loss of one," Mourning said. Gun violence is rare in the northwestern Cook County village, although it does have gun sellers. "If something does occur, it gives us a better chance of being able to track down the firearm," Mourning said. Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner applauded Preckwinkle's proposal. "How could I say no?" he said. "If your cell phone or wallet were stolen, you'd call the police and make a report. Why wouldn't you for guns?" Kushner also voiced support for more stringent background checks on would-be firearms purchasers, as well as stricter adherence to sentencing guidelines for those charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon. But, echoing some local gun owners, Kushner added that there is already a federal law in place that requires records to be kept about the sale of firearms. "We're just waiting to see what the county does," said Wilmette Police Chief Brian King, adding that the village doesn't have a specific ordinance that addresses the same issue. King said Wilmette residents routinely report stolen guns, but he doesn't know the statistics for that in the village. Meanwhile, some residents remain skeptical that the law will target gun violence the right way. "This reporting of stolen guns to me is a joke," Mastrianni said. "Any normal human being who owns one is going to report if it's missing." Mastrianni said he believes that the real reason for the law is that the county needs money. He said if the county wants real change, it should make sure gun stores comply with regulations and subject residents to more training and background checks, instead of giving out fines. He said Illinois Gun Works, a gun range and shop that has been around since 1982, sells firearms only to people who have state-issued Firearm Owner Identification cards. But if a Chicago resident tries to buy a gun at the store, Mastrianni said he also asks for the Chicago Firearm Permit — and to his knowledge he is the only store in the suburbs that does that. The Chicago permit, which is issued separately from the state card, certifies that the person went through training and an additional background check. Masrianni argues that everyone in Illinois should be subject to it.


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