I-Team: New gun laws would save lives?

April 21, 2014 (CHICAGO)

City leaders have been careful today not to reduce the weekend's hellish violence to statistics, except one equation: 180 is less than 930. One hundred and eighty days is about the time the average simple gun violator in Chicago spends in jail under current law, and 930 days would be the number for the same gun possession crime if proposed legislation becomes law. With the casualty toll after Easter weekend in double digits, it is the remedy police and politicians count on.

"Every single year we take more guns off the street than any police department in the country, and nobody goes to jail for possession of those guns," said Supt. Garry McCarthy, Chicago Police.

Superintendent McCarthy referred Monday to the illegal guns that Chicago police took off the streets. Last year the total seized was 6,816 guns. Perhaps speaking out of frustration following the weekend bloodshed, McCarthy overstated that "nobody goes to jail for possession" of illegal guns. What is accurate is that a person prosecuted on a simple gun charge in Chicago spent, on average, 6 months or less in jail.

Despite some political rhetoric suggesting that Illinois allows those arrested for gun possession to get off home-free, there is a mandatory minimum penitentiary sentence for gun possession here of one year. But with day-for-day good behavior credit, most convicts are out in 6 months, and some Cook County judges give probation.

The result? According to police, "169 people involved as offenders or victims in last year's murders or shootings would instead have been behind bars."

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, police and Mayor Emanuel back state legislation that would lock up illegal gun carriers for a minimum of three years, offer no day-for-day good time and require a convict serve 85 percent of the sentence.

That would mean that gun possessors would service 930 days in custody vs. 180 as it now stands. The legislation passed the Illinois Senate late last year but is stalled in the Illinois House. There are now renewed efforts to get it passed this spring, but with Illinois broke and the estimated $780 million in additional incarceration fees, it faces a fight.

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