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House approves stricter sentences for repeat gun offenders

Chicago is well-known for having strict gun laws, but late last month, the Illinois House seconded the Senate’s support for a bill addressing the issue of repeated firearm offenses. This legislation follows on the heels of multiple failed attempts to introduce new gun laws in recent years and received significant bipartisan support.

In early April 2017, an Illinois Senate bill targeting felons with repeated gun crimes passed with a large majority and moved on to the House, as the Chicago Tribune reports. The bill requires stricter sentencing for persons charged with multiple gun crimes. Currently, a repeat offense can lead to a sentence of three to 14 years, but the new legislation lengthens the minimum sentence to seven years and specifies that judges must provide reasons if they wish to hand out penalties that do not follow these guidelines.

Chicago has witnessed a steep climb in street violence and homicide rates, and guns were involved in 91 percent of the deaths of the approximately 760 victims of homicide who were killed last year. Thus, the new gun bill has been hailed as a way to diminish violence by pinpointing repeat violent criminals. Opponents, however, have argued that the legislation will lead to a rise in incarceration among minorities.

The bill’s bipartisan success was achieved partly through the removal of measures that would have reduced sentences for certain types of drug crimes. These measures were deemed inappropriate given the extent of the heroin epidemic and the police view of the relationship between gun and drug crimes.

WGN states that at the end of last month, the bill was brought to the table in the Illinois House, where representatives voted 70–41 in favor of the new legislation. Lawmakers who support the bill view it as providing an important tool to Chicago’s law enforcement agencies. However, this legislation has significant, negative implications for persons with histories of repeat offenses involving unlawful firearms.

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