Tougher gun violence punishment measure passes House, goes to Rauner
Second-time violent gun offenders would face stricter sentencing under a bill that passed the House on Monday after undergoing heated partisan debate.
Senate Bill 1722, sponsored by Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Spring), creates the Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act. Durkin said the measure would prove particularly beneficial to Chicago. It increases the range of imprisonment for a second-time felon who is convicted of the unlawful use of a weapon to a minimum of seven years and a maximum of 14 years in prison.
“This narrowly tailored section regarding presumptive sentencing targets offenders that pose a higher risk of violence to the public,” Durkin said. “This bill only applies to adult offenders, not juveniles, and it only applies to individuals with prior felony convictions. It does not apply to those who own or carry guns legally. This legislation is strong on crime, but I also believe it is smart as well.”
The bill won’t affect juvenile offenders and would instead create a diversion program for first-time youth offenders.
“For the purpose of balance, understanding that young men and women make mistakes, we are going to give them the benefit of doubt on that first offense,” Durkin said. “Under that provision, a first-time youth offender who is under the age of 21 would be require to plead guilty, [the] sentence will be deferred and, if they successfully complete the program, the charges would be dismissed. I think that’s a good step. I think it is fair.”
Many Democrats disagreed, arguing that the bill does not address the problems that lead to gun violence, such as crime, gang culture and societal difficulties. Rep. Sonya Harper (D-Chicago) said the measure would lead to more incarceration, especially of African-American males.
Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Height), who supported the bill, asserted that he reserves his concern for others.
“I have no sympathy for anyone who shoots a 3- or 4-year-old child,” Harris said. “I have no sympathy for a gang-banger who picks up a gun and, to earn his gang stripes, engages in a drive-by shooting. I have no sympathy."
Harris concluded that while he acknowledges the difficult lives some offenders face, that does not excuse a person from pulling a trigger.
“I understand the societal problems that are there, but when you pick up a gun and you pull the trigger, you lose my sympathy completely -- societal problems or no societal problems,” Harris said.
SB1722 passed 70-40 and now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner for consideration.
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