SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — As Chicago suffered through it`s most violent year in two decades, Police Supt. EddieJohnson was passionate and persistent about a potential solution.
“It’s a small sub-section of the population in Chicago that’s driving this gun violence,” Johnson said. “1,400 individuals, who are repeat gun offenders, just imagine if we took 50 percent of them off the street where our gun violence would go in the city of Chicago.”
“Gun offenders get slaps on the wrist in this city – and it has to stop. I need our judicial partners and our state legislators to help me close this gap,” he said.
He traveled to Springfield twice to urge lawmakers to pass a bill that would target repeat gun offenders, giving judges the power to impose stiffer sentences.
The bill passed both the Illinois House and Senate last month, but had been caught up in partisan wrangling over the budget and personal politics between the governor and the mayor until Friday.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the measure into law, with Johnson at his side
“This took months of work, compromise and bipartisan teamwork,” Rauner said.
“Today is the day we stand together and send a loud and clear message that we will no longer tolerate violence at the hands of repeat gun offenders in our communities,” Johnson said.
Under the law the sentence range for repeat gun crimes would change from 3 to 14 years to 7 to14 years.
But the new law has its critics.
“One way to look at the issue of gun violence is how people are getting access to guns, and what is driving violence, and neither of those have been addressed in this piece of legislation,” said Stephanie Kollmann, a Northwestern University law professor who testified against the measure’s effectiveness.
“There certainly is no evidence that this will be an effective tool to address gun violence, but it comes at a great cost to the state of Illinois at a time when the governor and the mayor can’t agree on a budget,” Kollman said. “This will add, by our estimate, $47 million over the next ten years by adding 2500 person years of incarceration to an already overcrowded system.”
But Johnson says the repeat gun offender law is just one tool in the fight against gun violence.
“This bill is the first step toward creating a real culture of accountability in Chicago that will make people think twice about picking up a gun before they ever use it,” he said.