Is Chicago Prosecutor Souring On Gun Control?

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Cook County prosecutor Kim Foxx isn’t a conservative or a pro-2A politician, which makes some recent comments even more surprising. Foxx is a Chicagoland Democrat, so you’d expect that she’d be a vocal supporter of any and all gun control laws on the books, but instead the State’s Attorney sharply criticized the growing number of arrests for simple possession of a firearm during a recent webinar with local journalists.

The evidence doesn’t show that the drivers of the violence are the people who’ve been arrested for nonviolent gun offenses,” wrote Sarah Sinovic, a spokeswoman for the office, referring to illegal possession of firearms. “State’s Attorney Foxx has long said we need to invest more in violence prevention and a more holistic approach to address the root causes of violence.”

Illinois bans gun possession without a valid firearm owner’s ID card. Even with a FOID, people who carry guns in vehicles must keep them unloaded if they are accessible in places like the glove compartment or under a seat.

According to data visualizations displayed by Foxx’s office during the webinar, CPD gun arrests have nearly doubled since 2014. That increase is mainly due to arrests for gun possession, a crime that Foxx’s office deems “nonviolent” because the gun is not used or fired.

It’s not just Foxx’s office who defines possession of a firearm without a license as a “nonviolent” crime. Anybody with the slightest amount of common sense would do the same, because possessing a gun isn’t an act of violence in and of itself. And Foxx is on to something when she says that the city is arresting the wrong people on gun charges.

One chart displayed by Foxx’s office suggests that the increase in CPD’s gun-possession arrests owes mainly to street stops of people with no prior convictions. From 2011 to 2016, those arrests never exceeded 300 a year. Each year since then, however, has brought a big increase. By 2020, there were more than 1,400 and Saniie said CPD is on pace to exceed that number this year.

CPD arrest numbers for violent gun crimes, meantime, have trended down over the years, according to the presentation. So has the rate at which CPD solves shootings.

Saniie even criticized CPD efforts to seize guns — efforts that netted 11,343 firearms in 2020 and 5,148 this year up to Friday, according to the department.

“It’s a pretty staggering number,” Saniie said, “but less than 20% of those guns ever get linked back to any type of shooting.”

Saniie concluded that the arrests that come with those gun recoveries sweep up too many people who are not fueling the city’s violence: “It’s a question of arresting the right people.”

I can’t disagree with anything that Foxx or her deputy is saying, but I’d like to see her take the next logical step and call for repeal of the state’s gun control laws that are fueling the arrests of the “wrong people.” The constitutionality of Illinois’s Firearm Owner ID requirement is already being challenged in court, and the lengthy delays by the Illinois State Police in processing both FOID and concealed carry applications have led to residents being forced to wait for nearly a year in many cases before they can legally exercise their right to keep and bear arms.

Those delays are undoubtably leading some residents in Cook County to keep and carry a firearm for self-defense, even though they haven’t yet received their government permission slip. Arresting them and seizing their guns does nothing to reduce the surging violence in Chicago, because they’re not the ones responsible for the violence in the first place. The Chicago PD can tout the growing numbers of “gun arrests” and seizures, but unless and until the focus is on arresting violent offenders, Chicago (and Cook County) is going to continue to see a higher-than-average number of shootings, carjackings, home invasions, and street robberies.

During her webinar with reporters, Foxx steered clear of calling for any policy changes, but if she’s serious about finding a better way of addressing violence, she needs to start speaking out about the failures of the state’s gun control regime. It’s great to see her office highlighting these figures, but it would be even better if she were to call for the repeal of the state’s FOID law altogether.

Jul 31, 2021 8:30 AM ET