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State’s Attorney: Law Enforcement Needs To Improve How Gun Laws Are Applied

As Chicago closes a year with more than 700 homicides, new Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx says police reform can help address the rising gun violence.

In an interview with WBEZ, Foxx pushed back against calls for tougher gun laws, and said the “onus is on us as law enforcement” to apply laws and resources in strategic ways. Here are excerpts from that interview.

On looking to cities like New York for solutions

I’ve gone to New York, because we often talk about New York’s strong gun laws, and that was an indicator of the direction that we should go to bring down our violence. What I found, in talking to the district attorney in Manhattan and the district attorney in Brooklyn, was that they did a multi-pronged approach -- that it wasn’t just their gun laws. It was being strategic and targeted in (figuring out) who are the people who are causing the most violence in their communities -- and taking a list of thousands and taking it down to about a hundred. And using every available resource to go after those who are causing the most harm.

Certainly, we have issues with repeat gun offenders who are going out on our streets and continuing to engage in the same behavior, and we need to do something about that.

But I also think that the onus is on us, as law enforcement, to be strategic in how we go after the resources we have available to us right now. We do have relatively strong gun laws here in Illinois, but how are we using them and what are the data showing in terms of how our laws are being applied across the board? That’s something that I don’t think we’ve done an effective job at -- looking at how our laws are actually applied, and not whether they are strong enough.

On how police reform could help cut down on neighborhood violence

I think we have to recognize that the issues with gun violence, the issues in communities and how we are viewed as law enforcement, all go hand in hand -- and we can actually still talk about both at the same time.

The communities that have been impacted the most by gun violence are some of the same communities that have the least amount of trust in our criminal justice system, and the actors therein. Those are the same members of the communities that we need to help us, to talk to us, to figure out these crimes, to figure out who’s causing the harm in the community. And if they’re (afraid) to partner with us, if the belief is that street justice is better than the Cook County criminal justice system, then you’ll continue to see a rise in violence.

On how the rising murder rate changes her mandate and priorities

In order for us to say that we are partners in the struggle to deal with the gun violence, that means that we hold ourselves accountable. Me, as the prosecutor for practices that perhaps I’ve been engaged in, in an office that has not been open and welcoming to the community, or to those in law enforcement who go afoul of the law -- you still have to do that at the same time that you’re dealing with gun violence. It’s not an either-or proposition, it’s a both-and. I think you can still talk about them, and should still talk about them when the headlines are dominated by violence. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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