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City May Expand 'Gun Offender' Registry

By DNAinfo Staff on March 7, 2013 1:44pm  | Updated on March 7, 2013 4:55pm

 Ald. Edward Burke (14th) presided over a City Council Committee on Public Safety hearing where he pushed for a more robust gun offender registry in Chicago
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) presided over a City Council Committee on Public Safety hearing where he pushed for a more robust gun offender registry in Chicago
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — Chicago's gun offender registry needs to be expanded to include the names of people busted committing crimes with a gun, Ald. Ed Burke (14th) said Thursday. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel agrees.

The powerful alderman wants to force anyone convicted of a violent crime with a firearm, including kidnapping, assault, robbery and vehicular hijacking, to end up on the list, which now has 584 names on it of those convicted of less serious gun violations.

Burke said he was shocked to hear the current list had so few names.

"Clearly I felt that there are thousands of offenders that should have been added to the registry," Burke said.

In July 2010, the City Council passed an ordinance establishing a "gun offender registry," similar to a sex offender registry. But the law only requires those convicted of unlawful  use of a weapon, which includes illegal possession of a gun among other charges, to register with police.

Burke's plan to expand the list was approved at the City Council's Committee on Public Safety hearing Thursday and is on the agenda in front of the full council Wednesday. 

"We believe the ordinance can be implemented and will help achieve the Mayor's goal of reducing gun violence and illegal weapons in the city of Chicago," Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office said in a statement.

Thomas Byrne, chief of the Chicago Police Department's Bureau of Detectives, told the committee that the number of people that would be added to this registry is currently uncertain.

Any expansion would likely require more manpower and resources to enforce, Byrne said.

"Knowing who they are helps officers on the street," Byrne said.

But an expansion of such a registry could have a negative impact on public safety, said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association.

"If you start publishing information about those people and their pictures they are going to become targets," Pearson said, adding that "police know who they are anyway."

Former convicts residing in Chicago are required to register their names, identifying information, place of residence and place of employment.

The current ordinance requires those people to register within 48 hours of release from prison, though Burke's new version gives them five days.

Anyone who fails to register would face fines of up to $500 a day or six months in prison.

Burke said he wanted the public to use such a registry as they would one for sex offenders. It could prove helpful to police as much as parents sending children to a playdate.

"Shouldn't mom and dad have an opportunity to check a gun offender might be registered at that address?" Burke said.

In both 2006 and 2008, Burke had also introduced measures for a registry.

Chicago Police have made 255 arrests of people on the registry list since its inception. There are 74 people on the list that the department is actively investigating, police said.