Follow @csteditorialsThree important news stories this week, taken together, cry out for saner gun laws in Illinois — beginning with tougher penalties for gun crimes.
In the first story, a man charged with shooting and killing another man near Millennium Park on Saturday was reported to have a criminal record that should have precluded him from even being on the street. The suspect, Paul Pagan, 32 had been arrested 39 times and was twice convicted for pointing a gun during an argument. He has convictions for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, reckless conduct, marijuana possession and possession of a stolen motor vehicle. He had a warrant out for his arrest. Yet he was back on the street, allegedly with a gun.
In the second story, the FBI reported on Monday that violent crime in the U.S. was up 4 percent last year and that murder was up 12.8 percent in cities. Violent crime is a Chicago crisis, but we are not alone.
Follow @csteditorialsIn the third story, a study by Northeastern and Harvard universities estimated that the number of privately owned guns in the United States increased grew by more than 70 million between 1994 and 2015. This editorial page defends the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns, but their sale and transfer must be better monitored to keep them from falling into dangerous hands.
Behind all three news story was the steady drumbeat of shootings and killings in Chicago. Eight people were killed and 44 were wounded in Chicago shootings over the weekend. On Monday, two more were shot dead and nine were wounded by guns.
Clearly, it is folly to pretend our nation’s gun laws cannot and should not be tougher.
In Springfield, several sensible ideas to restrict the flow of guns to people who shouldn’t have them have been proposed. One important bill still being drafted, but which could be introduced in November, would lengthen presumptive sentences for repeat gun offenders. That is to say, it might have kept the man charged in the shooting near Millennium Park, Paul Pagan, off the street longer — and his alleged victim might still be alive.
The bill would allow a judge to impose a lighter sentence when the circumstances call for it, provided the judge explains in writing the reason for doing so. The aim is to increase penalties for the worst gun offenders without sweeping up people in a mindless way, such as an elderly person just trying to protect his home.
The bill, pushed by state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Michael J. Zalewski, D-Riverside, and backed by Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, would address an important failing in our current laws. The Legislature should enact it quickly.