Mayor Emanuel backing tougher gun law, House Bill 2265

October 15, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The mayor wants the Illinois General Assembly to triple--from one to three years-- the mandatory minimum prison sentence for illegal gun possession.

"The weak link in the system is our gun laws," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Backed by the families of several murder victims, the police superintendent, lawmakers and the state's attorney, the mayor renewed his push to keep illegal gun carriers off the streets a minimum three years.

"This bill could have prevented 108 shootings or murders from taking place so far in 2013," said Supt. Garry McCarthy, Chicago Police Department.

House Bill 2265 could be called when the General Assembly goes back to work next week. Passage would mean judges would no longer have discretion when sentencing gun offenders.

"Judges with their discretion have been quite lenient," said Cook Co. State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Alvarez said prosecutors-- like herself-- could better use their discretion before filing gun charges.

"We have to look at the totality of the circumstances. We have to look at every case, case by case," said Alvarez.

It was Alvarez whose office prosecuted State Senator Donne Trotter for several months before a judge reduced Trotter's gun charge to a misdemeanor.

"Prosecutors, typically, they see their jobs as to win convictions," said John Maki, John Howard Association.

Prison watchdog John Maki does not trust prosecutors to make better decisions than judges. He also says the 49,000 inmate Illinois prison system cannot absorb 3,000-4,000 additional gun criminals.

"If the systems built for 32,000, I don't know how we can accommodate 500 more inmates," said Maki.

Mayor Emanuel said prison budgets and inmate counts are not considerations when it comes to his effort to ensure public safety. There is also the law enforcement belief that prison populations will be reduced because those who might carry guns might not do so with stiffer penalties.

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