Cook County Public Defender Amy Capanelli recently suggested that those who “just” carry a gun should not be punished by a mandatory jail sentence. As a retired federal probation officer whose brother Michael was killed in an armed robbery in 1972, I strongly disagree. Throughout my career, I heard defense attorney pleas that he “only” carried an illegal gun, “only” robbed someone with a gun without hurting anyone, “only” wounded someone with a gun, or “only” killed someone with a gun but without really intending to do so.
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She compared a war on illegal guns through mandatory jail sentences to the failed war on drugs. Drug sales are driven by consumer demand. No victim of gun violence has ever bargained with a shooter for a bullet.
She notes the tough mandatory sentences for a murder committed with a gun or the potential long sentences for a felon in possession of an illegal gun. But cases involving illegal guns are nearly always plea bargained to lesser time or less serious charges, just to guarantee a conviction for prosecutors. The individual who murdered my brother was charged after his release from prison with unlawful use of a weapon – and received one-year probation, despite his murder conviction!
Mandatory jail sentences for illegally carrying a gun would not only punish but more importantly deter many from this behavior which is a danger to the community and to them as well. Such enforcement would help to educate the community as well, when so much media glorifies the use of guns.
The gun violence epidemic will be reduced by police aggressively seizing illegal guns off the street and the courts incarcerating offenders who illegally carry them. I do not suggest draconian prison sentences, but the certainty of a minimum jail sentence is a reasonable deterrent and punishment for this offense.
Tough sentencing by itself will not solve the epidemic of gun violence. But if one shooting or homicide is prevented by disarming an armed predator by a jail sentence, making our law against illegally carrying a gun more credible is well worth it.
Capanelli and others suggest that such mandatory sentences would have a negative impact on black youth who would end up in jail. Since the 1980s, homicide — most often committed with a gun — has been the leading cause of death for young black men. Let’s consider those young men who end up in the morgue or crippled or terrorized for just walking down the street. And young black men who don’t change their love affair with guns, because they realize that they will get only a slap on the wrist for carrying a gun for “protection.”
This cycle must stop. Truly making the carrying of illegal guns unacceptable is a first step.
Chester Kulis, Mount Prospect
During the past several years the federal government has allowed thousands of majestic, intelligent and sociable wolves to be viciously trapped and slaughtered by cruel and greedy trophy hunters, trappers and firearms zealots. This inhumane atrocity is being perpetrated to placate the political interests of ranchers, farmers and other irreverent organizations. It’s very disappointing that a Democratic President with a progressive environmental record is enabling the ongoing massacre of one of our nation’s most iconic wildlife species .
Brien Comerford, Glenview
Every waking moment of Donald Trump’s life is so completely consumed by self-worship to the point that he can’t even hear what other people are saying. His responses usually are tangential at best and always contain a self-compliment. These are classic signs of attention-deficit disorder and severely impaired self-esteem. Truly confident people don’t need to brag.
Robert Neufeld, Northfield