Illinois House OKs stricter gun crime sentences

The Illinois House has endorsed tougher sentences for repeat gun offenders in an attempt to curb Chicago violence.

House lawmakers voted 70-41 Monday for the measure after a contentious two-hour debate. The plan would prompt judges to prescribe longer terms within existing guidelines for individuals charged with illegal firearm possession multiple times. It would also introduce a diversion program for young first-time offenders and reduce incarceration for certain drug offenses.

Numerous lawmakers contended stricter sentencing would disproportionately incarcerate minorities without addressing deeply rooted issues underlying Chicago violence.

But House sponsor and Republican leader Rep. Jim Durkin of Western Springs says it would decrease gun violence by giving Chicago law enforcement a tool it needs.

A Democratic representative who voted for the measure has filed a motion requesting another vote.

In a statement, Mayor Emanuel said the bill is “an important step to improving public safety in Chicago and Illinois.”