It is time for the Illinois Legislature to answer our call and create a more substantial deterrent for offenders who are at the greatest risk to commit gun violence. I am talking about those offenders who are already ineligible to carry a firearm, but disregard the law and carry anyway. Our criminal sentencing policies should target those illegally carrying firearms who pose the greatest public-safety threat to our communities.
Under our current statutes, when a felon is convicted for carrying a firearm in public, the average time that he ends up serving in jail or prison is 15 months. When a violent street gang member is caught carrying a firearm in public, the average sentence served is 12 months.
Studies show that 63 percent of these offenders will re-offend within 12 months of release, and they are four times as likely to commit a homicide.
Simply put, these gun offenders not only have a higher likelihood to re-offend than other non-violent offenders, they also have a higher propensity to use firearms to victimize others.
While our primary focus in Chicago remains on our own streets, gun violence is clearly an epidemic across our nation. Last Thursday’s mass shooting at an Oregon community college is another despicable and chilling reminder that our country must impose stricter gun laws.
Last year I joined forces with Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and more than 30 prosecutors from major jurisdictions across the nation to form Prosecutors Against Gun Violence. We are a non-partisan coalition organized to identify and promote solutions to the national public health and safety crisis of gun violence.
Our organization has already released a slate of proposals supporting measures that include universal background checks for firearms purchasers, restricting access to guns by domestic violence perpetrators and supporting gun dis-possession protocols for domestic abusers.
We also support combatting illegal weapons trafficking by tightening federal and state anti-trafficking laws, limiting multiple gun sales, and supporting inspection and enforcement of licensed gun dealers.
As the body count of the innocents rises, we struggle to comfort and I work to seek justice for the devastated families who have lost their precious loved ones. The images of our victims make plain that there has never been a more compelling or a more important time to take action.
We know that it is not going to be the actions of one mayor or one state’s attorney that will turn the tide; we all need to have a strong and sensible voice in this process. Please join me in supporting common sense gun legislation and other important policy changes that have a realistic ability to reduce gun violence.
Anita Alvarez is the Cook County State’s Attorney.