Sen. Dick Durbin, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart urge police to trace confiscated gun origins

July 22, 2013 (CHICAGO)

"Look at these guns that were just recovered recently," said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Monday.

One of them is a 45 caliber semi-automatic, rounded up off the streets by Chicago police during the past week. Like all guns confiscated in Chicago, it will undergo a trace to determine origin and first buyer. Not all police departments, though, trace the guns they seize.

Earlier this year in the south suburb of Robbins, for instance, sheriff's deputies found a plastic container filled with nearly 100 guns. None of them had been traced, though some had apparently been stolen, including one from a police department in Indiana.

"There's no excuse for not doing this. Incompetence. Stupidity. Pick one," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

"Are we going to ignore the obvious? Some of these guns tell us a story. And they tell us a story that will help us solve a crime, and stop another from being committed," said Sen. Durbin.

Tracing guns used in crimes can provide a valuable window to gun trafficking. Where are the guns coming from? Who's buying? Are there patterns that could help law enforcement stem the flow?

Sen. Durbin is sponsoring legislation that would encourage police departments to initiate traces of crime scene guns. Some departments - even sizable ones like Cicero - have not made a practice of doing that, though Cicero's mayor says that may change.

Durbin says it most certainly should, and after seven years of letter writing to push and cajole, he says it's time for the next step.

"If we don't do this and there's no excuse. And it's free, free to the law enforcement agencies willing to take part in this. We have urged them. It's working OK but not good enough, so we're going to push them a little bit," said Sen. Durbin.

There are roughly 800 law enforcement agencies in Illinois. Slightly less than half make a practice of routinely tracing crime guns.

Many of those departments are small, don't have a great deal of crime, they're lean on manpower, or they've just been in the habit of not tracing.

Durbin's bill would reward those who do by making federal grant money more readily available to them.

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