Chicago Officials Cool To Call For National Guard A recent surge in gun violence has spurred two state lawmakers from Chicago to urge Gov. Pat Quinn to call up the National Guard to help city police keep the streets safe. But city officials say stricter gun-control laws are needed to help reduce the level of gun violence.

Chicago Officials Cool To Call For National Guard

It's springtime in Chicago, and when the temperature begins to rise, the rate of violent crimes -- shootings in particular -- rises, too.

On the unseasonably warm night of April 15, for example, when the temperature soared to a balmy 80, a series of unrelated shootings over a span of 12 hours claimed seven lives and left 18 people wounded.

Last weekend, it was the death of a 2-year-old, shot and killed while sitting in a car with her father and siblings, that captured headlines in the city.

As a result of this recent surge in gun violence, two state lawmakers from Chicago urged Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to call up the National Guard to help Chicago police keep the streets safe.

A War In 'Our Backyard'

State Reps. John Fritchey and LaShawn Ford, both Democrats, pointed out that Chicago has had 113 homicide victims so far this year, a total they said is equal to the number of U.S. military deaths in Iran and Afghanistan for the same period.

Fritchey said while the National Guard is fighting wars halfway around the world, "we have another war that is just as deadly that is taking place right in our backyard."

"Is this a drastic call to action? Of course it is," Fritchey said. "Is it warranted when we are losing residents to gun violence at such an alarming rate? Without question."

"If we can bring them in to help fill sandbags for flooding, if we can bring them in to deal with tornado debris, we can bring them in to save lives," Fritchey said.

Fritchey added that he was not "talking about rolling tanks down the street or having armed guards on each corner"; instead, he aims to have a "heightened presence on the streets."

Skepticism From Officials

Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis said thanks, but no thanks.

"As much as I'd like to have as much help as possible, I'm not sure mixing the National Guard with local law enforcement is the solution," Weis said.

Weis said soldiers in the National Guard are trained for a different kind of mission than are police officers.

"I spent six years in the Army, and I never got any course on how or why to obtain a search warrant," Weis said. "That simply isn't part of the military mission, but it's something our officers have to deal with every day."

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said he understands that many city residents are upset with the level of gun violence.

"Everybody knows there's frustration," Daley said. "And so you have to look for long-term solutions. There's no quick Band-Aid. You just can't think you're going to fix it in one weekend and walk away."

Daley and Weis said stricter gun-control laws are needed to help reduce the level of gun violence in the city, but they didn't completely rule out the idea of using the National Guard.

Melvin Santiago, a gang-intervention worker in the city's Humboldt Park neighborhood, told Chicago Public Radio that armed National Guard troops might worsen tensions in high-crime neighborhoods.

"If you got military personnel out there on the streets, carrying high-powered weapons, [it would] only make things a little bit more explosive," Santiago said.

Past Calls For The Guard

Quinn also downplayed the notion of using the National Guard to fight violent crime in Chicago, saying he wouldn't call up the Guard for such a purpose unless Daley asked him to do it.

The idea of having the National Guard help secure Chicago neighborhoods isn't new. Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich suggested it two years ago, but he was widely criticized and quickly backtracked, offering the city state police troopers instead. That idea was also criticized because it would have increased state costs during a budget crisis.

There were also similar calls about 20 years ago, when Chicago's homicide rate was twice as high as it is now. Vince Lane, then chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, suggested the possibility of National Guard troops patrolling the city's most violent public housing developments, but the idea failed to gain much traction.

The last time federal troops patrolled the streets of Chicago was during the rioting that followed the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Material from the Associated Press and WBEZ in Chicago was used in this report.