By John Byrne
Firearms owners in suburban Cook County will face fines up to $2,000 if they don't report to police when their guns are lost, stolen or sold, under an ordinance county commissioners approved Tuesday.
The plan, pushed by County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, will apply to all areas of the county where a similar law is not already on the books. It will not apply within the city of Chicago, which has its own firearms statutes.
The board approved the new rules without debate or opposition, minutes after commissioners honored Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old girl whose fatal shooting last week has come to symbolize the epidemic of violence in Chicago.
"This is not just a problem in the city, it's a problem throughout the county," Commissioner John Daley, D-Chicago, said while talking about Hadiya.
Commissioner John Fritchey, D-Chicago, said the widespread attention the city is getting for crimes like Hadiya's killing, which happened near President Barack Obama's Kenwood home, gives Chicago a "shameful" reputation.
"It's interesting to see, for those of who have been around for a while, how Chicago went from being the town of Al Capone to the town of Michael Jordan, and now we're back where we are again," Fritchey said.
The new county gun ordinance, which will take effect in August, requires gun owners to report to the county sheriff within 48 hours if they no longer have their firearms for any reason. Failure to do so will result in a $1,000 fine for a first offense, $1,500 the second time and $2,000 for additional violations.
Preckwinkle argues the new rules will help cut down on so-called straw purchases in which people legally buy guns, then sell them to criminals. She and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have mounted a public campaign in recent months for tighter restrictions on gun purchases at the state and federal level. But critics wonder how much a county law with no jail time attached will do to stem the flow of guns into Chicago and high-crime suburbs.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said the statute will only place more hardships on legal gun owners while avoiding the fundamental problems like high unemployment and entrenched street gangs that drive much of the violence.
"This is the County Board saying, 'Let's take the lady who's had a handgun for self-defense and lost it, and make her a criminal,'" Pearson said.
Emanuel also is moving ahead with plans to toughen laws requiring people to report lost, stolen or transferred guns in Chicago. The mayor's plan would include mandatory jail time.
Also Tuesday, Preckwinkle announced a federal judge found that the Cook County Forest Preserve District largely has removed political favoritism from its hiring process. A judge dismissed the Shakman litigation first filed against the district and other government agencies in 1969, finding the agency had taken enough steps to clean up the way it awards jobs. County government and City Hall hiring continue to be monitored.
In addition, commissioners approved $24 million in hospital malpractice settlements, including a $20 million payment to the family of a now 3-year-old boy who suffered permanent brain damage when he had a heart attack after routine surgery at Stroger Hospital in 2011.
(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune