ENGLEWOOD — New state and federal legislation is needed to help law enforcement agencies stop the flow of guns to Chicago's streets, the city's top cop said at a town hall meeting Thursday.
More than 200 people turned up at Kennedy-King College to hear Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy talk about the recent wave of gun violence in the city and ways he would stop it. Chief among them would be new laws to require gun owners to report any lost or stolen weapons.
"One of our biggest problems is tracing guns that were purchased legally but later lost, stolen or sold illegally," McCarthy said. "So until legislation is passed in Springfield and nationally to close this loophole, law enforcement will continue to be one step behind."
In Illinois, when someone sells their car, or if the car is stolen, it must be reported to the Secretary of State's Office. But if someone buys a gun legally and it is stolen, there is no law that requires the owner to report it.
He also mentioned what's known as "straw purchases," where "gang bangers are getting their girlfriends or other people to legally buy guns for them."
Straw purchases are "a big problem in Chicago and nationally, and it is something police have no control over," McCarthy said. "Lawmakers are the ones who have power to change this but until they do we will continue to see innocent people murdered on our streets."
McCarthy made his remarks during a 90-minute town hall meeting moderated by Lilia Chacon, press secretary for Chicago Treasurer Stephanie Neely, and Tony Sculfield, radio personality for 107.5 FM WGCI.
Joining McCarthy were Pam Bosley, whose son, Terrell, was gunned down in 2006; Lance Williams, professor at Northeastern Illinois University; Edilberto Vasquez, a former gang member and now a youth mentor; Che "Rhymefest" Smith, a Grammy-award winning rapper and now a community activist; Minister Rahim Aton, a board member of the Pastors of Englewood Network, and non-profit leaders Bob Jackson, executive director, Roseland CeaseFire; and Diane Latiker, founder and executive director of Kids Off the Block.
Bosley told the group how, in 2006, her son was headed to choir practice at the Lights of Missionary Baptist Church when someone walked up and shot him in front of the church.
"I was angry when my son was killed. I own a gun and had I found out who killed my son, I probably would have killed them," she said as she wiped away tears. "I am glad I didn't though because it would not have brought back Terrell."
No one has ever been charged with his murder despite a $5,000 reward offered by the family. McCarthy said 70 percent of homicides went unsolved in Chicago each year, and spoke of the hard time detectives had seeking cooperation from the community in solving those murders.
"Police get leads all the time on murders, but when it comes time to identify a suspect in a line up or testify in court, rarely are people willing to do so for fear of being labelled a snitch," McCarthy said. "You are not a snitch if you identify someone who has committed a crime."
Still, Aton said many residents didn't come forward to the police because they feared their lives were in danger.
"Is the police going to escort you to school, work and church until the person is convicted since you told on them? I doubt it. So why get involved if it could cause harm to you and your family?" Aton said. "In the black community, there is a history of mistrust with the police so that is why blacks do not tell on each other. They simply do not trust the police."
Audience members wanted to know why there were no young people on the panel.
"You guys are not the ones being shot up, we are so we should have someone up there that represents us and our concerns," said Demarcus Brown, a senior at Urban Prep Academy High School, an all-boys charter school in Englewood.
A list of homicide victims in 2012 was displayed on a projector screen for the audience to see as a moment of silence was held to pay respect to them.
"I see my friend's name on that list," Brown said. "I was with him in July when we were both shot, so I know first-hand what the violence is doing to my generation."