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In Wake of Chicago Violence, Continuing Push For Tougher Gun Possession Laws

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After last year’s historic violence in parts of Chicago, a group of state legislators are once again pushing for tougher gun possession laws.

The proposal would ratchet up minimum prison sentences for people who illegally carry a gun.

The ACLU of Illinois opposes the legislation in part because it says it would target the act of carrying a gun, not shooting it.

But one of the bill’s co-sponsors — Democratic state Rep. Mike Zalewski, from Riverside — basically says: Yeah, targeting carriers is the point.

"In any situation, a carrier becomes a shooter," Zalewski says. "That’s how this happens. A gun doesn’t just magically fall in their hand right before they shoot."

Zalewski is co-sponsoring the legislation with Rep. Elgie Sims and Sen. Kwame Raoul, both Chicago Democrats. Members of the Legislative Black Caucus blocked a similar proposal in 2013.

On the latest version of the proposal, Zalewski says judges would be able to go below the minimum sentence, but they would have to explain their reasoning. He says part of the idea is to make courts take more time and care with gun cases.

“Judges will be guided by the fact that the General Assembly wishes you to take your time on these cases,” he says.

The ACLU says Illinois already has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. The bigger problem, it says, is that the vast majority of shooters in Choocago are never even arrested.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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