[AUG. 13, 2005] CHICAGO -- In his ongoing effort to help keep
Illinois communities safe from gun violence, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich
recently signed into law
House Bill 1039, a bill that creates stiff new penalties for
habitual criminals -- identified as individuals who have been
convicted of two or more violent crimes -- who are caught with guns.
The governor's action Aug. 2 will help reduce gun violence by
putting those who repeatedly endanger neighborhoods in prison.
"Step by step, we're working to
free our communities from the bondage of gun violence," Blagojevich
said. "We made monumental progress by closing the gun-show loophole
that for so long provided criminals with an easy avenue for
obtaining guns. Today, we're telling those who contribute to the
violence over and over again that they need to change their ways or
they're going to do serious time behind bars. We're not going to
stand by and let our schools, streets and neighborhoods be
House Bill 1039, sponsored by Rep. James D. Brosnahan,
D-Oak Lawn, and Sen. Martin A. Sandoval, D-Cicero, creates a new
offense, "armed habitual criminal." The bill states that people with
two or more past convictions for any of a list of specific violent
crimes -- including first-degree murder, sexual assault of a child,
arson, robbery, home invasion and gunrunning -- are in violation of
this law if they receive, possess, sell or transfer a firearm.
Nationally, according to Bureau of Justice statistics, 18 percent
of state prisoners and 15 percent of federal prisoners were armed
when they committed the offense for which they were imprisoned.
Among those who carried a firearm during the offense, about 8
percent of state and federal prisoners carried military-style,
semiautomatic weapons. These firearms included the UZI, Tec-9 and
MAC-10 handguns and AR-15 and AK-47 rifles. Among inmates in prison
for more serious offenses such as murder, rape, sexual attack,
robbery and assault, 30 percent of state offenders and 35 percent of
federal offenders carried a firearm while committing the crime.
"This new law sends a message to felons that being in possession
of a firearm will not be tolerated," said Brosnahan, who sponsored
the legislation in the House. "This initiative makes state penalties
for firearm possession by felons more in line with federal
penalties. Project Safe Neighborhoods has resulted in taking violent
felons off the streets because they have continued to carry guns.
Unfortunately, since federal resources are limited, many who deserve
federal prosecution are dealt with in state courts, where penalties
are less severe. This law changes that, and as a result our
communities will be safer."
Habitual criminals have a proven history of terrorizing
communities and a record of associating with others who have chosen
a lifestyle of crime, which can include gang members, drug dealers
and gun traffickers. For these criminals, House Bill 1039 will serve
as a deterrent to stay away from guns or receive prison sentences of
six to 30 years, the equivalent of a Class X felony. The bill also
requires truth in sentencing, meaning the convicted offender must
serve at least 85 percent of the sentence.
"With this legislation the message is clear: Guns have no place
on our streets," said Sandoval, Senate sponsor of the bill.
House Bill 1039, effective
immediately, builds on the governor's continuing effort to stop gun
violence in Illinois, including the following:
In July, the governor signed
legislation closing the gun-show loophole that allowed gun
buyers to avoid comprehensive background checks.
Senate Bill 1333 requires gun sellers at firearm shows to
request background checks for potential gun purchasers.
In June, the governor signed
House Bill 524,
House Bill 132 and
House Bill 35, which imposed harsher prison sentences for
individuals convicted of a crime using a firearm. The bills
included mandatory prison time for second or subsequent
The governor also signed
House Bill 348, which requires that if anyone attempts to
get a Firearm Owner's Identification Card but is denied, state
police must report the person's name and address to the local
law enforcement agency where the person lives.
The governor announced $3.9
million for Operation CeaseFire programs in Illinois in the
coming fiscal year, including seven $250,000 grants for
communities that will receive funding for the first time. Last
year, Blagojevich increased funding for CeaseFire to expand from
five Chicago communities to 15 communities around the state.
In March, the governor created an
elite gun trafficking police unit to stop the flow of crime guns
into Illinois. The gun unit works with federal authorities and
law enforcement agencies from Indiana and Mississippi to detect
and capture gunrunners and illegal dealers. More crime guns flow
into Illinois from Indiana and Mississippi than from any other
The governor has pushed strongly for the state assault
weapons ban currently being considered by the legislature. The
legislation would ban assault weapons and .50 caliber rifles --
extremely dangerous weapons -- in Illinois. The ban would outlaw
weapons such as UZIs, AK47s and TEC-DC9s.
On Aug. 2, the governor also signed several pieces of legislation
to help victims of crime recover physically, emotionally, mentally
Initiated by Attorney General
Lisa Madigan and sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul, D–Chicago, and
Rep. Constance A. Howard, D-Chicago,
Senate Bill 416 allows victims of violent crime, including
domestic violence victims, who must relocate for safety reasons
to qualify for reimbursement for the first month's rent,
security deposit and other reasonable relocation expenses. The
law is effective Jan. 1, 2006.
"This new law will be crucial in
helping domestic violence victims find assistance to break the
cycle of violence," Madigan said. "We must ensure that our
financial assistance system helps victims and their families
escape abusive settings. It's hard enough for domestic violence
victims to scrape up the strength to leave. They should not have
to scrape up a security deposit and first month's rent as well."
"This is a wonderful law because
it helps victims of violent crimes," said Howard, sponsor in the
House. "I appreciate Governor Blagojevich for signing this
important piece of legislation and Attorney General Lisa Madigan
for helping to initiate it. The goal of this bill is help reduce
the financial burden imposed on victims of violent crime and
House Bill 1134 allows expenses for care and counseling by
licensed clinical professional counselors to be reimbursed for
victims of violent crime. Before, only expenses for licensed
clinical psychologists and licensed clinical social workers
could be reimbursed. Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, and Rep.
Robert W. Pritchard, R-Sycamore, sponsored the law, which is
effective Jan. 1, 2006.
"The intent of the legislation is
to offer victims of crime more choice when seeking the treatment
that they need to recover and rebuild their lives," Radogno
explained. "By allowing these individuals to be reimbursed for
professional counseling, Illinois is taking one more step
towards providing much-needed care for victims of violent
Sponsored by Sen. Dan Rutherford,
R-Pontiac, and Rep. Eileen Lyons, R-Countryside,
House Bill 701 states that in addition to a prison sentence,
the court may order a defendant to pay restitution; further, the
prison sentence of the defendant is not a mitigating factor that
could prevent restitution. In determining the amount of time in
which the defendant should pay, the court can take into
consideration the defendant's assets. When long-term physical or
mental health care is required for the victim as a result of the
offense, the court can order the defendant to pay restitution to
the victim in fixed monthly payments. The defendant's payments
will continue for as long as the long-term care is necessary.
The court can change the fixed monthly amount if there is a
substantial change in the defendant's or victim's financial
condition or in the cost of the long-term health care.
For certain sex offenses -- even
if the defendant had the charges reduced due to a plea agreement
-- the bill allows the court to order an offender to pay for a
victim's medical, psychological or other rehabilitative
"When a person commits a crime with such long-term
ramifications, then the person responsible should pay for the
victim's medical costs," said Rutherford, sponsor in the Senate.
"This legislation is one small step toward addressing this very
serious offense and helping victims of abuse receive the care
that they need to recover."