Chicago police, lawmakers seek harsher
sentences for gun offenders
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[July 02, 2016]
CHICAGO (Reuters) - With murders and
shootings soaring in Chicago this year, the city's police chief and
state lawmakers announced on Friday they will push for new laws setting
harsher sentences for repeat offenders of gun crimes in Illinois.
The law, which would be known as the Violent Gun Offenders
Sentencing Act, is in its infant stages and would provide
presumptive guidelines that judges would have to follow when
ordering repeat criminals to serve jail time. Judges would be
required to implement penalties on the higher range of existing
"Part of the goal is to incapacitate, get these violent offenders
off the street," state Senator Kwame Raoul said at a news conference
announcing the proposed legislation.
Raoul said he would sponsor the legislation along with Senator
Antonio Muñoz and Representative Michael Zalewski, all Democrats.
Chicago, the third-largest U.S. city, has had 307 murders so far
this year, up 50 percent from the same period last year, and 1,548
shootings, up 52 percent from the same period last year, according
to police statistics.
Police have blamed the violence largely on gangs and a proliferation
of stolen guns. There were nearly 500 homicides last year, and gun
violence is up in 2016, police say.
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More than 50 people involved in shootings and murders in Chicago
this year would have been in prison at the time of the incident if
the proposed tougher sentencing policies were in place, the police
department said in a statement on Friday.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the law is not designed to
penalize responsible gun owners, but focus on the individuals "who
tell us 'I don't care.'"
Legislators in the state capital, Springfield, have frequently
rejected gun control measures proposed by lawmakers from Chicago.
A proposal made in 2013 by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to impose
tougher sanctions for illegal gun possession did not get through the
state Assembly because of opposition from black lawmakers who said
it could lead to higher incarceration rates for blacks in Chicago
communities already struggling with high numbers of former inmates
who cannot find jobs.
(Reporting by Justin Madden; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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