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Kirk to Springfield: Help Local Law Enforcement Keep Violent Gang Members Off The Streets

Senator urges General Assembly to pass legislation increasing penalties for gun crimes; Mandatory minimum law might have prevented murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton

Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013
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Source: City of Chicago

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today joined with local law enforcement leaders to call on the Illinois General Assembly to pass legislation targeting illegal gun crimes, including those committed by dangerous drug gangs. Kirk was joined by Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim and North Chicago Police Chief James Jackson.

SB1342, as amended by state Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside), requires a minimum sentence of three years for gun crimes and mandates that offenders serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. The legislation increases penalties from a range of 1 to 3 years for several common gun-related crimes, including illegal possession of a gun by a gang member, illegal possession of a gun by a felon and aggravated unlawful use of a gun when the offender has not been issued a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification card.

“Criminals fear federal prosecution because of the harsher penalties and mandatory sentences, but not every crime can go federal,” Senator Kirk said. “Our law enforcement officials are on the front lines in the fight against dangerous drug gangs and they have identified a key deficiency in state law that we need to fix. I hope our representatives in Springfield can come together to give local law enforcement the tools they need to keep violent drug gangs and other criminals off our streets.”

“A criminal arrested by Chicago Police officers for illegal gun possession today doesn’t face a certainty of punishment that’s appropriate for that crime,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. “By passing state Senate Bill 1342, the state legislature has the chance to show criminals we do not tolerate illegal guns in our communities and that we do not accept the violence that they cause. And with this bill the state legislature has the chance to save lives, here in Chicago and throughout Illinois.”

"As we continue to see gun violence spill into the suburbs, we need effective tools to help us keep our communities safe," Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said. "Having tougher penalties for those who continue to use guns illegally will serve as a deterrent and also provide prosecutors with significant leverage when handling these cases."

"Our laws currently do not provide the deterrent we need to keep people from committing violent acts with firearms," state Rep. Michael Zalewski said. "When law enforcement and victims of senseless violent crime on our streets ask for help to put some teeth into the law, I'm more than happy to help them and look forward to moving ahead with the legislation in this session."

The University of Chicago Crime Lab estimated that the legislation would result in 3,800 fewer crimes per year, including 400 serious violent crimes. According to the City of Chicago, 108 shootings or murders this year alone might have been prevented had the offenders received harsher sentences for previous crimes. One crime that might have been prevented was the January murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. Michael Ward, one of two individuals charged with the murder of Hadiya, received probation in January 2012 for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. Had a three-year mandatory minimum been in force, Ward would have been behind bars at the time of the shooting.

The University of Chicago Crime Lab estimates that the social costs stemming from a reduction in crime would total more than $700 million. Illinois has more gang members per-capita than any other state in the nation, according to the National Gang Threat Assessment.

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