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October 14, 2013

Intriguing research and debate surrounding talk of increasing mandatory minimum sentence for illegal gun possession in Chicago

This new Chicago Sun-Times article, headlined "U. of C. study bolsters call for stiffer firearms sentences: police supt.," reports on some notable new crime research concerning a proposal to increase the mandatory minimum sentence for certain gun possession crimes.   Here are excerpts:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s argument for stiffer firearms sentences is bolstered by a new study showing gun possession offenders placed on probation are more likely to get re-arrested for murder than other felons, his police superintendent says.

The University of Chicago Crime Lab studied whether those convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon — a gun possession charge — have higher arrest rates for murders and non-fatal shootings than other felons. Using Chicago Police arrest data, the study found that aggravated UUW offenders were four times more likely to be re-arrested on murder charges and nearly nine times more likely to be locked up for nonlethal shootings than other felons.

The U of C study focused on all felons — and a subset of aggravated UUW offenders — who have been sentenced to probation between 2008 and 2011 in Cook County. The study tracked any re-arrests within two years of their probation date.

“This data makes clear that we have to treat illegal gun possession as the violent crime that it is,” police Supt. Garry McCarthy said on Friday.

A bill backed by the Emanuel administration and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez would raise the mandatory minimum sentence for aggravated UUW from one to three years and would require offenders to serve 85 percent of their sentences — a “truth in sentencing” provision.

“No matter how you look at it, this bill will save lives,” McCarthy said. “Every illegal gun on our street is a potential murder and the bill pending in Springfield is narrowly tailored to stop violent criminals.”...

Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Illinois, said he remains opposed to the legislation because he’s concerned first-time offenders could get trapped in the same net as felons.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Corrections last week warned of the steep cost of getting tougher on gun-possession offenders. The department said it would cost about $1 billion to house an additional 3,860 prisoners over 10 years.  Those costs would include the $21,000 annual cost of housing each prisoner plus the cost of building new prisons or retrofitting existing ones to accommodate them....

Vandermyde said he doesn’t have a problem with boosting the penalties for felons caught with guns.  But he’s worried about first-time offenders getting three-year prison terms....

Aggravated unlawful use of a weapon involves a person who possesses a gun on his person or vehicle, isn’t on his property, and one of the following circumstances exists: the gun is loaded and immediately accessible; the gun is uncased and unloaded, but the ammunition is immediately accessible; or the person doesn’t have a state Firearm Owner’s Identification Card.

The seven-page University of Chicago Crime Lab report referenced in this press article is available at this link (which a kind and helpful reader sent my way).  

In addition, John Maki, Executive Director of the John Howard Association of Illinois, has authored a lengthy response here to the UC Crime Lab report titled "Mandatory Minimums Will Not Solve Chicago’s Epidemic of Gun Violence: A Response to the University of Chicago Crime Lab’s Support of HB2265." Here is how this interesting reponse starts and ends:

As Illinois’ only non-partisan prison watchdog, the John Howard Association (JHA) believes that the state needs to do everything in its power to use evidence-driven laws, policies, and practices to address Chicago’s epidemic of gun violence. This must include the appropriate use of the state’s prison system, particularly for the serious offense of illegal gun possession. However, as we debate how we should use prison, we should do so with a clear understanding that the deeper we send a person into the justice system, the more we trade the possibility of the long-term benefit of rehabilitation for the short-term effect of incapacitation....

JHA opposes HB2265 because we agree with the consensus of experts and practitioners who have found that the wise use of judicial discretion is more effective at preventing crime than mandatory minimum sentences. At the same time, it is clear that Mayor Emanuel’s administration and its supporters will continue to lobby for HB2265. JHA would therefore like to recommend two amendments.  First, as supporters have argued that the costs of HB2265 will be minimal and that mandatory minimums could even save taxpayer money by deterring crime, JHA proposes that the City of Chicago should pay for the costs of increased incarceration that stem from the bill, which would otherwise fall entirely on the state. Second, if supporters believe that the law will work, they should demand a three-year sunset be placed upon the bill.  This would allow analysts to isolate and evaluate its impact. In three years, if the evidence shows that HB2265 works in the way that the Crime Lab argues it will, no one will oppose re-authorizing it, including JHA.

October 14, 2013 at 05:55 PM | Permalink

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s argument for stiffer firearms sentences is bolstered by a new study showing gun possession offenders placed on probation are more likely to get re-arrested for murder than other felons, his police superintendent says.

This argument makes absolutely no sense to me. If you're trying to make the case to increase a minimum mandatory from one to three years, why the heck would you look at the results of probationers rather than people who served the one year?

Posted by: dsfan | Oct 15, 2013 10:48:55 AM

If those cops who murdered the 95 year old WWII Vet in his room at his nursing home by shooting him with a lethal weapon known as a taser and then shooting him in the stomach with a shotgun, were not armed, he would be alive. I know its a run-on sentence that I just made but the argument that guns kill people leads me to believe that the cops in Park Forest should be disarmed of their tasers and shotguns.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Oct 16, 2013 1:05:43 AM

|Weeping First Lady Pushes Chicago to Ban Stolen Guns| April 11th, 2013 Scott Ott
First Lady Michelle Obama, in an intensely personal speech Wednesday, called for Chicago to ban stolen handguns, the most commonly-used murder weapon, in a city
that tallied more than 500 murders last year.
Although Chicago already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, Mrs. Obama said the city needs to
get serious about making illegally-acquired weapons illegal.”

The First Lady teared up as she recalled attending the funeral of a 15-year-old Chicago girl, shot in the back by a drive-by assailant, who reminded her
of her own childhood in the same city.
“I realized that that young girl was me and I was her,” Obama said. “In other words, if I had been at that same spot just 35-years later, then Barack Obama
would never have met me, and he would not be President of the United States today, so you would never get to hear this intensely-personal speech.”

President Obama said [of] his wife’s gripping, emotional connection with that Chicago handgun murder..:
“Republicans can argue that restricting magazine capacity, banning assault weapons
or increasing background checks will do nothing to stem the tide of inner-city violence,” said the president,
“but they can never counter the emotional impact of watching my wife cry. To them I say, your argument is invalid.”

Posted by: Adamakis | Oct 16, 2013 10:17:46 AM

Someone needs to give the first lady a copy of the United States Constitution and then demand she read it and be tested on it. Fail the test and she's out!

Then give it to her husband with the same conditions!

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 16, 2013 11:24:58 PM

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