Chicago’s efforts against illegal firearm possession may face Statehouse obstacles

by Mike Tobin,  |  published on March 6, 2013

As Chicago leaders push for a statewide mandatory minimum prison sentence of three and a half years for illegal firearm possession in Illinois, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy made the case for urgency Monday by telling the story of an arrest this week in which police checked on a convicted felon and discovered he had a stolen and loaded Cat-9 9mm handgun.

McCarthy went through other tales of SWAT teams and cops bursting in on convicted felons to find .38 caliber Smith and Wessons, .45 caliber Glocks, .357s, and 38 specials. The guns typically are loaded, impossible to register and illegal — both in how they are purchased and that they are in the possession of habitual, violent criminals.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, McCarthy and District Attorney Anita Alvarez are calling for legislation to toughen the penalty for illegal firearm possession, as well as so-called truth-in-sentencing laws, intended to prevent convicts from being released after serving just a fraction of their time and returning to their violent lifestyle.

“By increasing penalties and requiring criminals to serve their punishment, we not only protect our children, our families and our communities but we also prevent the impulsive retaliatory killings that plague our neighborhoods,” McCarthy said.

The catch is that such laws need to be passed by the state Legislature in Springfield, where the success of Emanuel’s agenda will depend on his powers of persuasion.

“When you commit a serious gun offense, you should serve the time. The victims deserve it. The public demands it, and the criminal justice system should deliver it,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel may not be accustomed to the reception his push may get from downstate lawmakers.

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