Illinois House approves tougher penalties for repeat gun offenders

FOX 32 NEWS - The Illinois House approved tougher penalties for second-time gun crimes late Monday. Chicago’s top cop claims it could help cut violence by 50 percent.

Some African-American legislators argued longer prison sentences for two-time gun offenders would not reduce violence. They want more opportunity and jobs in black neighborhoods.

“The problem isn't really the guns. The problem is the segregated the city of Chicago,” said Rep. Mary Flowers.

“And I understand the societal problems that are there. But when you pick up a gun and you pull that trigger, you lose my sympathy completely,” said Rep. David Harris.

In the end, the House voted 70 to 41 to send the proposal to the state senate. It would increase the recommended sentence for repeat gun offense from seven years to 14 years. Second-time offenders under age 21 could be diverted from prison to a 24-month youth program. Upon completion, their record could be expunged.

Mayor Emanuel tweeted an appeal for the state senate to send the measure quickly to Gov. Rauner.

It’s clear the Republican governor will not have a compromise budget on his desk this week. On social media, he and top Democrats blamed the record-long impasse on each other. Without a budget, Rauner's administration will continue to spend at least $7 billion a year more than it collects.

But some argued Chicago police do such a poor job of protecting African-Americans that ex-offenders need to carry a firearm for self-defense.

“This bill doesn't go after the second time gun offenders. It just goes after people caught with guns for a second time,” a representative said.

This Wednesday night is the nominal deadline for the General Assembly to finish its work. After that, passing a budget or any new law will require a 60 percent supermajority.

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