Local activists call for transparency, action in wake of gun violence study


Graphic by Samantha Powers

From 2017 to 2022, the number of gunshot victims in Evanston has overall increased.

Samantha Powers, Reporter

Content warning: This article contains mentions of gun violence.

Everytown for Gun Safety’s January report traced guns recovered by police from 2017 to 2021 among top manufacturers in 31 cities — including Evanston. 

As the Evanston Police Department and local gun control activists continue pursuing efforts to stop gun violence, Everytown seeks to hold manufacturers responsible for the effects of the presence of guns in American communities, according to the study.  

EPD Cmdr. Ryan Glew said guns used in local crimes aren’t always legally purchased or owned. The department runs a gun buyback program to reduce the number of guns in circulation and address the risk of gun theft. 

Founded in 2012, Evanston’s gun buyback program aims to remove weapons from the community and mitigate the risk of firearm circulation. Gun owners are able to bring in unwanted guns and exchange them for cash with no threat of arrest, Glew said. 

But amid such efforts to curb gun violence, some local activists still feel frustrated by the pace of progress.

From 2017 to 2022, the number of gunshot victims in Evanston has overall increased, peaking in 2021 with 14 individuals, according to Glew. 

“There has been a nationwide uptick in violent crime over the past couple of years, and that’s also reflected in our numbers,” Glew said.

Community activist Carolyn Murray, who lost her son to gun violence, said the gun buyback program isn’t sufficient.

Since her son died, Murray has been advocating for a stronger approach in Evanston to combat gun violence. She thinks the lack of action is due to systemic racism.

“Evanston doesn’t have a money issue,” Murray said. “We just don’t have an issue with allowing the violence to plague our community. And I think we primarily grow up with a deaf ear on it, because it’s mostly African American males that are killed.”

Glew said the department aims to take a multi-tiered approach to combating gun violence, an effort Mayor Daniel Biss demonstrates in his participation in the Everytown study.

While Biss aids in national pursuits to stop gun violence, Glew said the city has a number of local policies — alongside the gun buyback program — aimed to get guns off the streets. These include education about gun safety and investigation of illegally obtained guns.

“The department and the city’s approach to gun crime has to be to take on as many prongs as possible,” Glew said. “From a policy standpoint, the mayor has made it a priority to join leaders around the country to hold gun manufacturers accountable for guns that are used.” 

Betty Ester, president of the Citizens’ Network of Protection in Evanston, said she would like to see more from Evanston than participation in nationwide studies. She’s hoping for more local transparency from the police department surrounding gun crime. 

Over the past two months, CNP has held two virtual meetings with city leadership and police discussing a new effort to revise the police department’s transparency dashboard, which reports local crime statistics to the public. 

Ester linked the need for transparency overall to a need for more information about EPD operations in particular, which she said is why she is advocating for public review of police activity. 

“We want the people to come and tell their stories because their stories will have to set the transparency,” Ester said in a Thursday meeting. “Silence won’t help.”

While CNP advocates for greater transparency about crime rates and city leadership seeks to acknowledge gun violence issues in Evanston, Murray said she sees these efforts as only a first step.

Murray said she hopes to hold Evanston leadership accountable for concrete action like stricter gun control protocols, open conversations and family resources.

“They definitely could be more proactive about this,” Murray said. “This didn’t just happen. No one in office should feel comfortable with those numbers.”

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