During his allotted time to question Thomas Kirsch II about his potential confirmation to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, bypassed all inquiries about the judiciary and pressed the nominee on the flow of guns from Indiana to Chicago.
“We know there is a pipeline of gun trafficking from the northern reaches of Indiana to Chicago,” Durbin, a member of the U.S Senate Committee on the Judiciary, said during Kirsch’s confirmation hearing Nov. 18.
Kirsch is the U.S Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, having been nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2017. In his questionnaire filed with the Judiciary Committee after he was nominated for the 7th Circuit, Kirsch said that in his current position he oversees more than 40 assistant U.S. Attorneys and his office has charged hundreds of cases each year and handles dozens of appeals.
Durbin noted Chicago has had more than 3,600 people shot in 2020 alone and he cited the 2017 Crime Gun Trace Report from the city of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department that linked a majority of the illegal guns in the Windy City to states with less regulations over firearms, such as Indiana. The report determined 21% of guns recovered from a Chicago crime came from the Hoosier state.
According to Durbin, the flow of firearms into Chicago is fueled by the gun show loophole in Indiana state law. Indiana law allows private vendors at guns shows to sell weapons without first conducting an FBI background check on the buyer.
The Illinois Senator asked Kirsch, “During your four years as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, what did you actually do to prevent Indiana’s gun shows from being the source of a pipeline of gun trafficking into the city of Chicago?”
Kirsch replied, “As a U.S. attorney, I faithfully apply the law and I prosecute cases under (18 U.S. Code section 922) and other cases involving other statutes applicable to gun crime.” He told the senator that he prosecuted about 200 guns cases each year and he has worked closely with the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, John Lausch Jr.
Then he added, “Of course, senator, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on policy matters as a judicial nominee.”
Durbin said he was not asking about policy. “I’m asking about your record,” he said. “What have you done?”
Kirsch responded his office has aggressively prosecuted gun cases. He said that he had prosecuted multiple straw purchase cases where guns were recovered in Chicago and RICO (Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization) cases linked to homicides on the south side of Chicago.
“Although I’m a believer in the Second Amendment, we aggressively prosecutive violent crime that occurs in Northern Indiana and also that occurs in Northern Illinois,” Kirsch said.
To underscore his point, Durbin highlighted recent cases involving Indiana residents trafficking guns.
In August, William Beard was sentenced for unlicensed firearms dealing, allegedly having sold or transferred more than 320 guns, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. Beard is accused of selling the guns at various locations including numerous gun or trade shows throughout Indiana.
Also in October, Wayne Tucker of Albion, was charged with one count of dealing firearms without a license, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Tucker is accused of selling 39 guns in Chicago and Hammond, Indiana. Allegedly he told the buyer that he had several people supplying with firearms that had been purchased at gun shows in Indiana.
“The problem of gun trafficking between the area you represent as U.S. Attorney in Indiana and Chicago is pervasive,” Durbin told Kirsch.