EAST ST. LOUIS • U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin brought his campaign for tighter gun control to his hometown of East St. Louis on Wednesday, promising it would help provide relief in a community where officials say the homicides per capita are 18 times the national average.
Durbin, D-Ill., said the proposed Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act, crafted with a bipartisan group of senators, is a key to getting guns out of the wrong hands. Law enforcement leaders were receptive in a meeting at the federal courthouse.
“If we’re going to be able to have an impact on the violent crime ... we’ve got to have as many tools as we possibly can,” said St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly. He said the bill “is one of the tools we think could be very helpful addressing the continued flow of illegal guns we have coming into the East St. Louis area.”
The proposal aims to deter straw purchases, in which someone who has a clean background purchases a gun for someone who does not. Durbin said the plan includes a prison sentence of up to 25 years for someone who buys a gun while knowing it will be used in a crime.
The roundtable discussion was held less than a quarter-mile from where police were investigating the city’s latest homicide.
Isaac Willborn, 29, was found shot to death Wednesday morning about 150 feet from his front door in the parking lot of the John DeShields Homes, 1235 McCasland Avenue. Police Chief Michael Floore said investigators do not think the killing was random.
Durbin has stood behind previous crime-fighting ideas for the community, including earlier closing times for nightclubs and increased patrols around housing complexes. He also supported creation of the Metro East Police Commission, intended to coordinate resources from Alorton, Brooklyn, East St. Louis and Washington Park.
“It’s clear we have to make this an ongoing effort,” he said.
Said Kelly: “While there’s been progress made … we still have a long way to go.”