Chicago-area lawmakers are looking to the two-week veto session that starts Tuesday as a small, yet feasible, window of opportunity to tighten up the state’s new concealed carry before it takes effect Jan. 1.
Stiffened penalties for illegal gun use are, for the most part, the encompassing theme.
House Bill 2265, sponsored by Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Chicago, toughens sentences for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and for gun crimes committed by felons. It also requires offenders to serve 85 percent of their sentences.
The push comes on the heels of state lawmakers emerging at the end of the spring session with a “compromise” proposal that allows for the carrying of weapons in public.
Zalewski’s call for tougher sentencing also follows the September mass shooting in Chicago that left 13 people wounded, including a 3-year-old boy who was shot in the head. One of the men charged in connection with the shootings, Bryon Champ, 21, was a previously convicted felon who was back on the streets after spending just four months in rehabilitative boot camp, an alternative to prison time.
“If my bill had been in place at the time of their experience in the system, they may have found themselves in the Illinois Department of Corrections as opposed to back on the streets,” said Zalewski, who’s proposal is backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. “I don’t think when you have 3-year-olds being shot at in a park, you can say, ‘Oh, we’ll get to this later on.’”
Zalewski’s bill was introduced during the spring session but didn’t get out of committee. Now, he said he thinks he can get the 60 votes needed to pass the bill so that it can become law next June.
“The reception’s been better since we’ve resolved concealed carry. With that being said, we have some votes we have to chase,” he said.
But the bill has already received push-back from pro-gun lawmakers such as Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, who spearheaded much of the concealed-carry negotiations. Phelps said last week he believes such stringent mandatory sentences put law-abiding gun owners at risk.
“I don’t want law-abiding gun owners who have never done anything wrong or have anything wrong in their background … to go to jail for three years automatically if they leave their FOID card at home,” he said.