Gov. Bruce Rauner moved Tuesday to stop the illegal flow of weapons from neighboring states fueling Chicago’s gang violence, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel wasn’t satisfied and called once again for tougher penalties for repeat gun offenders.
After a weekend that saw 50 people shot and seven killed, Rauner signed a bill that strengthens the penalties for interstate firearms trafficking. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs championed the bill at the behest of Cook County prosecutors determined to target suppliers as well as shooters.
It’ll now be a felony for someone without a firearm owner’s card to brings guns into Illinois “with the intention of selling or delivering” those weapons. The penalty will be even stiffer if the offender has a prior conviction for unlawful use or delivery of a firearm, gunrunning or firearm trafficking.
Emanuel didn’t attend the governor’s bill signing ceremony at the Illinois State Police crime lab in Chicago. Neither did Chicago Police officials. Afterwards, the mayor issued a statement that made it clear why he was a no-show. He called it a “step in the right direction” to go after “those who knowingly bring guns into Illinois illegally.”
But he said, “We must continue to build upon this new law” by partnering with Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) and other legislators “to strengthen sentencing for the repeat gun offenders who are driving violence on our streets.”
Raoul and two other Chicago members of the black legislative caucus, Sens. Jacqueline Collins and Mattie Hunter, are sponsoring a new gun-possession bill — along with Sens. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago), assistant majority leader.
The bill would target repeat gun offenders, creating sentencing guidelines that would suggest a stiffer prison term than the minimum sentence for crimes such as possession of a gun by a felon. If a judge chose to reject the guideline sentence and give a lesser prison term, the judge would have to say why in writing.
It’s a different approach than creating higher mandatory minimum sentences for gun offenses. Emanuel has pushed the concept for years, but it has repeatedly run into a wall in Springfield.
Raoul said Tuesday he hopes his bill could be debated in the veto session in November. He he thinks it could get the endorsement of the entire black caucus and the National Rifle Association, which has opposed higher mandatory minimum gun sentences for fear they could send first offenders to prison for lengthy terms.
“I think this is actually somewhat consistent with what the NRA advocates —don’t come after us law-abiding gun owners, go after those who are perpetrating the gun crimes,” Raoul said. “I think we can thread the needle here.”