New gun law cracks down on gang members

December 3, 2009 3:16:53 PM PST
A new law on the books in Illinois is designed to crack down on known gang members caught with loaded weapons. It calls for mandatory prison time of up to 10 years for gang members caught with guns. The new law is named in honor of a Chicago police officer who was shot and killed back in June. While six months too late to save a young Chicago police officer, the new statute will mean more prison time for offending street gang members.

Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill into law at Chicago's 7th District police station, as officers and politicians watched alongside family members of Officer Alejandro Valadez, the Englewood patrolman who was shot to death by an alleged gang member last summer.

"The bill is really passed to protect every citizen in our state from street gangs and firearms belonging to street gangs," said Gov. Quinn.

"Ladies and gentlemen, what does it say about our society when we start doing drive-bys on Chicago police officers? I say it's time that we say enough is enough," said State Rep. Eddie Acevedo, (D) Chicago.

Under the new law, if a suspect identified as a "gang member" is convicted of possessing a loaded firearm in Illinois, the person will face a minimum of three years in prison and maximum 10 years regardless of whether the gun was fired or used in a crime.

When the Valadez murder happened, the alleged shooter was on probation for a previous gun charge. Mayor Richard Daley lamented the fact that the new law comes too late to save an officer's life.

"We should not allow anyone to be killed in the line of duty," said Mayor Daley.

The law was the brainchild of Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who was asked how her prosecutors would determine which suspects are gang members.

"If they are throwing up a gang sign or wearing the colors, it is self-evident. And tattoos, prior history. There is a lot that comes into play," Alvarez said.

Alvarez also said her prosecutors would not keep a list of organizations they will consider to be criminal streets.

An American Civil Liberties Union spokesman said the organization had not taken a position on the new Illinois law.

The law becomes effective immediately.


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