CN April 18, 2013

The U.S. Senate has rejected pretty much any form of firearms regulation, but in Chicago there’s a resigned attitude that very little of the proposed legislation would have made much difference here anyway.

Panelist Alex Keefe (WBEZ) brings the story home to Illinois, as he tells us about his report on the Illinois Firearms Owners’ ID Card.

“A FOID card is like a driver’s license,” he explains. “If you want to buy a gun or have a gun or shoot a gun at a range you need this card. And in theory, you get it taken away …if you’re mentally ill, if you’re a criminal or if you have a restraining order against you.”

But that’s the problem, he says. The program is run by the Illinois State Police, and they don’t have the resources to terminate the cards when something goes wrong. “In practice, all the state does is they send you a letter, that says – please Mr. Criminal, please send us your card back because you’ve been convicted,” he reports.

The Cook County Sheriff’s office and the Chicago Police make efforts to retrieve revoked FOID cards, he says, but “As of a year ago, the state police said 70% of the cards are still floating around.”

Of course, the card itself isn’t the issue. It’s the guns an individual bought using that card that never get recovered. “No one goes to get the guns when the card is revoked. Technically you’re illegally in possession of a gun, but it’s not like anyone is knocking on your door,” Keefe explains. Literally thousands of firearms obtained with now-invalid FOID cards are still out there, he says.

And, by the way, there’s no way to know how many firearms have been obtained using Illinois FOID cards. Sales records, he says, are destroyed within 24 hours of the purchase.

This was the week when Mayor Emanuel announced some kind of settlement in the long-running attempt to modernize Wrigley Field and the surrounding area.

But panelist John Byrne (Chicago Tribune) advises caution.

“The term settlement. Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. This is a framework of a consensus,” he says, as Keefe adds “It’s a framework of an understanding and a consensus.”

“The mayor loves to do this, says Byrne. “We’ve seen this on his budgets, on the deal for digital billboards, where one plan comes out, and then over the next several months he extracts some around-the-edges concessions from the parties. Then he can stand in front of the microphones and tell us about how he played tough. How much he went to the mat for the taxpayers. Now, how much of this was built-in fat, with the understanding that it was going to get trimmed, so he could present himself as the hard-as-nails negotiator we know him to be, is difficult to determine.

(The Cubs conversation starts at 12:30)

Mayor Emanuel, by the way, has been very successful in raising money for his own re-election. “He raised about $386,000 since the first of the year,” says Keefe. “This means that in his pocket he has, between two campaign funds he controls – about two million bucks in political funds that he can use to influence elections.

(Our conversation about emanuel’s campaign funds begins at 19:30).

We also talk about the CTU’s announcement that it intends to challenge Emanuel politically. Both panelists say that President Karen Lewis could find alliances with unions and other groups unhappy with the Mayor. “Maybe she feels she can give a voice to this amorphous anti-Rahm sentiment,” Byrne says.

News also broke this week that in order to rehab the “welcoming” schools, CPS would have to borrow money to pay for the closure of fifty-some schools.

“Originally they had ball-parked that (closing schools) would save $43 million a year,” explains Keefe. “but now they’re saying they’re borrowing $329 million – a little more than $200 million of which will go to fund school actions. If you pay down the debt service from the money you’re borrowing that’s $25 million a year for 30 years…suddenly you’re saving a lot less money with these school closings that we thought. And this was something we hadn’t heard about before.

Given that cost-saving was the original explanation for the dramatic action that would affect almost 50,000 elementary school children,  Keefe says, “The money-saving argument becomes a lot harder to make.”

(And Curtis Black adds this – CPS may have inflated the capital needs at the closing schools in order to make the “savings” look greater.)

(Our schools-closing conversation begins at 24:30)

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About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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