Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation that will help reduce gun violence in Illinois. Senate Bill 1589 will increase penalties for convicted felons who are found carrying guns.
The new law was sponsored by Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago) and Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Summit) following the shooting death Chicago Police Officer Thomas Wortham, who was killed during a robbery attempt. The Iraq War veteran had recently returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed outside his family home. More than one of the suspects had previously been convicted of gun charges.
"Officer Wortham was a true hero who lost his life to senseless violence," Governor Quinn said. "No family should lose a loved one to gun violence, and this law will help us ensure safer neighborhoods for families across Illinois."
Senate Bill 1589 will fight gun crime in Illinois by ensuring that felons who are convicted of new weapons offenses will be sent to prison -- not allowed to walk the streets of Illinois. Under the new law, a defendant convicted of unlawful use or possession of a weapon, who has previously been convicted of a felony, will be sentenced to two to 10 years in prison. Under current law, the unlawful use or possession of weapon by a convicted felon is punishable by two to five years in prison or probation. The new law removes probation as a sentencing option.
Additional violations will now carry a sentence of three to 14 years behind bars. Felons who are currently on parole or mandatory supervised release can also be sentenced to three to 14 years in prison. Under the current law, all of these violators could simply be sentenced to probation.
"This legislation is essential to enhancing the safety of our communities for residents and for our children," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "Stronger state gun laws complement the City of Chicago's aggressive actions to increase public safety, which include passing an enhanced curfew ordinance, deploying more than 750 additional police officers to our streets, and expanding after-school opportunities to keep our children safe."
"This legislation is a recommendation from the Interstate Gun Trafficking Task Force, of which I am a member and it is supported by families who have lost loved ones to gun crimes," Sen. Munoz said. "Many people who are charged with or convicted of gun crimes end up back on the streets with little or no penalty. The murder of Chicago Police Officer Thomas Wortham in Chicago last summer was just one high-profile example, but there have been many, many others. This common-sense legislation will help to save lives."
"This new law ensures that felons who use guns get the punishment that they deserve," Rep. Zalewski said. "By imposing a mandatory prison sentence on criminals who commit these kinds of offenses, we are creating much safer streets and neighborhoods for our residents."