Durbin's Chicago Judiciary Hearing Pure Political Theater

AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool

When Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin announced that he was bringing the Senate Judiciary Committee to Chicago for a special hearing on guns and crime, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. We already know what Durbin believes is to blame for the sharp increase in murders and other violent crimes since mid-2020; “too many damn guns”. And sure enough, Durbin had no interest in hearing any other explanation for why Chicago’s had more than 700 murders this year. In fact, he even cut off testimony from one witness invited to testify.

During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Combating Gun Trafficking and Reducing Violence in Chicago” on Monday, Heritage Foundation legal fellow Amy Swearer was cut off by Durbin while attempting to cite data about selective prosecution in Chicago.

“I read your testimony,” Durbin interrupted as Swearer attempted to cite a specific instance of selective prosecution. “I believe in all fairness, since we did not invite the Cook County state’s attorney’s office to be represented here today, that you shouldn’t really zero in on any particular individual.”

Why exactly did Durbin decide to hold a hearing on Chicago violence and not invite Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx? Perhaps because he didn’t want to bring up inconvenient facts like this?

Swearer was attempting to cite an incident in October in which a mid-morning gun fight in Chicago left one person dead and two wounded, with police seeking charges such as murder and aggravated battery against five individuals involved. But just two days later, all the suspects were released without charges after the Cook County state’s attorney “determined that the evidence was insufficient to meet our burden of proof to approve felony charges.”

It’s not like Swearer is the only one calling out Foxx for her lackadaisical attitude towards violent crime. Even Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has slammed Foxx for her charging decisions, but Durbin clearly wanted the focus of the hearing to be on guns and gun control, which earned him accolades from the Cook County prosecutor after the hearing concluded.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx office issued a statement following the hearing that read, “Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx appreciates the Senator having an in depth hearing on the rise of gun violence across the country. Recognizing the seriousness of the subject matter, the Senator did not allow for testimony that was purely for political posturing, instead focusing on finding meaningful solutions. The State’s Attorney continues to work with our local and federal law enforcement partners to address violence in our communities. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office approved charges in 86% of adult felony arrests this year in Chicago and Cook County.  We are happy to have a conversation and share relevant data if and when that is appropriate with stakeholders, leaders, and the community.”

Contrary to Foxx’s statement, Durbin’s hearing was nothing more than political posturing; specifically on the part of the senator himself and other Democratic officials or appointees whose anti-gun agenda was clearly on display.

Durbin pushed the US Attorneys officer on why there are not more straw purchaser prosecutions. He wanted to know from the ATF why the Chicago office is doing so few field inspections of gun shops compared to other offices.

Durbin also asked why so many untraceable ghost guns are turning up on Chicago streets. Guns that have no serial numbers and are often purchased online and assembled at home.

This year Chicago police have confiscated 430 compared to last year’s 130, including the one that recently killed 71-year-old Woom Sing Tse in Chinatown.

It’s literally impossible for Democrats to talk about violent crime without pulling out the “ghost gun” card, though Chicago’s top cop ended up throwing cold water on the idea that the city is awash in home-built firearms. Of course, given Brown’s own anti-gun attitudes, it was only to promote the idea of another gun control law.

Chicago police Supt. David Brown said his officers have pulled 12,000 guns off the streets this year, more than any other year in history. But he said more has to be done, especially in the courts.

“Yet there is no federal law against gun trafficking,” Brown said. “Federal sentencing guidelines should reflect severity of our gun violence problem.”

Gun shops in neighboring states have contributed to the gun violence in Chicago. A gun take in a smash and grab in Wisconsin was linked to 27 shootings in the city.

There isn’t a specific federal law banning firearms trafficking, but it is is a federal crime to deal in firearms without a federal firearms license. Theft of a firearm is also illegal, as is possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The idea that the next gun control law will be the one to make a difference would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high. Instead, it’s a crying shame that Durbin decided to engage in political theater rather than a substantive discussion about Chicago’s many public safety failures and the violent criminals who are far too often escaping any real consequences for the harm they’re inflicting on a daily basis.