CHICAGO — Gun owners across Cook County are going to have to report all firearm transfers to the sheriff's office or face fines.
The Cook County Board Tuesday passed an ordinance requiring gun owners to report all lost, stolen, sold or otherwise transferred firearms. The measure passed by voice vote without opposition. It's an effort to thwart straw purchasers who buy guns legally and then sell them illegally.
"All of us are obligated to do what we can where we are," said County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. "Clearly, we would like national legislation on some of these issues, but we're going to do what we can in Cook County."
Gun owners will have to register firearms and report "the loss, sale or transfer of weapons" within 48 hours to the Cook County Sheriff's Office. Previously owned firearms will not be subject to registration.
Violators will be subject to a fine of $1,000 for the first offense, $1,500 a gun for a repeat offense and $2,000 for each additional violation. Preckwinkle said it was aimed at combating "straw purchases," pointing to figures showing that 29 percent of all guns confiscated by Chicago Police were purchased legally in Cook County.
Police have said that it's too easy for people to buy guns and sell them illegally on the street. That's because if the gun is later used in a crime and traced back to the purchaser, the purchaser can just claim it was stolen and not face consequences.
The measure is designed to complement similar legislation being proposed by the Chicago City Council. The county law takes effect in August.
The County Board began its regular session issuing a resolution honoring Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old King College Prep sophomore shot and killed last week. That perhaps discouraged any debate from gun proponents. It was read aloud in somber tones by Commissioner Jerry Butler (D-Chicago).
Preckwinkle said there had been a "shift in public opinion" on gun control since the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, and "the magnitude of the problem was brought home by the death of this young woman."
Preckwinkle cited her 10 years spent teaching high school, adding, "Whenever we lose any of our young people it's a tragedy. The magnitude is extraordinary in this case because this young woman was clearly such a person of promise.
"I don't want to diminish the deaths of young people who might be gang-involved or drug-involved. That's also a loss, because people always have the chance to turn their lives around if they live long enough. But it's particularly disturbing and problematic when a young person who clearly has everything going for them and such a bright future loses it in such a terrible way."