Illinois lawmakers and Chicago police are hoping to pass legislation that would enact longer prison sentences for repeat gun offenders in the wake of increased gun violence throughout Chicago and its suburbs.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the new law would ensure that criminals responsible for many of Chicago’s shootings would be spending more time behind bars, and the possibility of enhanced sentences may deter others from getting a firearm in the first place. The new law would require judges to impose prison sentences on the higher end of sentencing guidelines, but only for offenders with a previous gun crime on their record.
Gun Violence Rages On
Gun violence has ravaged Chicago this year, as police report that there have been 315 homicides in the first half of the year, an increase of more than 100 over the same time frame last year. On average, two people died and 15 were wounded by guns in Chicago each day in the month of June.
Superintendent Johnson said if the legislation were law, more than 50 individuals involved in the shootings this year would have been in jail.
“Repeat gun offenders are driving the violence in Chicago,” Johnson said. Officers are working hard to keep repeated offenders off the street, “but we need help from the justice system to hold them accountable for their actions.”
Lawmakers against the proposal believe the city needs to focus on other ways to decrease gun violence, like through increased education programs and more jobs. They don’t believe increased incarceration will address the root problem.
Regardless of whether or not the measure gets passed, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who introduced the bill, said the legislation is “the beginning of an important conversation” about a comprehensive approach to keeping communities safe.
“The challenge of addressing gun violence is not one just for law enforcement; it’s one for all of us,” he concluded.