It's no secret, in Illinois, there's debate on how to tackle gun violence. Firearm advocates say to let law-abiding citizens carry in public. That's happening soon. Opponents want all guns off the streets. Now, some state lawmakers are trying to pass harsher punishments.
Rockford area prosecutors break down the possible stricter penalties and what's already in place. Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato believes Illinois needs these penalty enhancements.
"We need to increase the pressure and deterrence on those who are willing to be in our community or any other community across the state and illegally possess guns." -Bruscato says.
Stephenson County State's Attorney John Vogt agrees, but says a couple examples show Illinois law already allows strict prosecution in gun crimes.
"If you're a felon and you have possession of a firearm; it's not probationable and you get sent to prison. If you possess a firearm during the commission of a crime there's 15 years that's automatically added onto any sentence that you would receive. There's 20 years added onto possession of a firearm and personal discharge. If you personally discharge a firearm and cause great bodily harm or death it's 25 to life [added]." -he explains.
Opponents argue the legislation is too expensive, saying it'll cost Illinois roughly $1 billion over 10 years.
Both Bruscato and Vogt say the goal is to prosecute the right people.
"There is no way that we feel that these should be enforced against citizens who are carrying a gun pursuant to the new concealed carry law. I trust prosecutors to have judgment to decide who to prosecute and who not to." -Vogt says.
This gun legislation passed a committee and is headed to the House floor. The National Rifle Association actually supports the bill after an amendment was added, keeping the possible punishment for first time offenders from changing.
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