Illinois Senate passes bill targeting repeat gun offenders in Chicago

Lawmakers in the Illinois Senate passed a bill Thursday that would lengthen prison sentences for repeat gun offenders in the state.

Meant to try and quell gun violence in Chicago, Senate Bill 1722 would essentially double sentences for some repeat gun felons, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Under the new measure, sentences for some repeat offenders would increase from a range of 3-7 years to a range of 7-14 years. Judges would still have the authority to stray from the sentencing guidelines but would have to explain why when doing so.

“If this saves one life, just one life, I think it’s worth it,” Chicago Democrat Sen. Kwame Raoul said during debate.

While the legislation passed on a 35-9 vote, several lawmakers didn’t vote or simply voted “present.” Some, like Chicago Democrat Sen. Jackie Collins, said more jail time is not going to solve the problem.

“Locking up more people is not the solution to gun violence,” Collins said.

Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson hailed the measure in a prepared statement.

“Using a spear to pinpoint the individuals that are driving the violence on our streets, this bill would ensure that the arrests officers make are followed through upon to keep violent criminals out of our communities,” Johnson said.

The bill also contains criminal justice system reforms aimed at decreasing the prison population, which include shrinking “drug-free” zones from 1,000 to 500 feet, applying increased penalties for selling drugs in protect areas such as schools only if the crime is committed during school hours, and removing public housing from the category of protected areas.