THE LOOP — Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wants the upcoming gun violence debate on Capitol Hill to not only be about those killed in the Sandy Hook School massacre, but about those who continue being killed by bullets in Chicago and elsewhere.
"This is a challenge not only about those poor kids in Newtown, Conn., but a challenge to save another victim who could end up being a poor kid in grade school in Chicago," Durbin said Thursday.
Durbin met with several local law enforcement leaders in the Loop to discuss what they've done and what they need from the federal level to address gun violence.
On Dec. 14, a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut before turning the gun on himself.
Since that date, Chicago has had 25 gunshot victims whose deaths have been classified as homicides by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy told Durbin that what separates violence rates in Chicago, which had 506 homicides in 2012, from other large cities like Los Angeles and New York City is one thing.
"I can tell you what's different in one word. It's quite simple. Guns," McCarthy said.
The meeting came on the same day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he would introduce a gun control ordinance in the City Council.
At one point in the discussion, McCarthy displayed what he described as an "Uzi-like" gun and ammunition confiscated on the West Side Wednesday. A suspect tried shooting officers with the weapon when it jammed, he said.
"That's a military-grade weapon on the streets of Chicago," said McCarthy.
The panelist — which included Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau and suburban police chiefs — called for stricter gun laws. They want to ban the sale of assault weapons, make it easier to track firearms when stolen or sold, and keep convicted violent criminals in prison for a minimum sentence.
"We are not going to get the right plan unless we have law enforcement in the conversation," Durbin said.
"When you commit a murder, there's no reason for you to be out in six years," said Cmdr. Eric Washington, head of the West Side's Harrison District.
Urging stricter mandatory minimum sentencing, Washington said: "These are the people who are making our residents scared."
A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Durbin will likely have a major role in any possible gun violence legislation.
"We're going to respond in Washington to what happened in Sandy Hook, but we've got to respond to what happens in America every single day with people losing their lives to gun violence," Durbin said.