Illinois Lawmakers Have Repeat Gun Offenders In Their Sights

(CBS) – With New Year’s weekend right around the corner, the Christmas weekend violence that left 12 dead in Chicago is very much on the mind of city leaders.

Once again, they’re calling for longer sentences for repeat gun offenders.

CBS 2 Political Reporter Derrick Blakley looks at a proposed state law that would provide just that.

Last fall, after two ex-cons on parole were charged with the murder of 32-year-old Nykea Aldridge – shot while she walked home with her baby – Mayor Emanuel noted the two “thugs” had prior gun convictions.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson this week likewise called for tougher punishments for repeat gun offenders, after a fatal shooting at a Chatham home.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, wants to change that.

“We ought not to have to wait until somebody gets shot to hold somebody accountable,” he says.

Raoul’s bill wouldn’t create mandatory minimums — but instead, instructs judges to sentence repeat gun offenders in the upper end of the range, while still allowing flexibility.

He explains: “Judge, if you want to depart from this sentencing structure, you can. We don’t totally remove judicial discretion. You just have to say why on the record.”

Riverside lawmaker Mike Zalewski, a former prosecutor, tried for years to increase overall penalties against gun offenders. He now supports Raoul’s approach.

“The issue, we find, is making sure that individuals with heightened levels of background in violent offenses get special attention when they reach the Cook County court system,” he says.

Johnson says about 1,500 people on the department’s “strategic subject list” are responsible for most of the city’s violence crime. That is the group, he says, the law would target.

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