Will Longer Prison Terms Help Curb Chicago Gun Violence?


In Illinois, you can go to prison for one to three years if you use a weapon unlawfully. You might serve only half that time, or you could get probation or even boot camp, reports NPR. Chicago saw 500+ murders last year, most by gunfire. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the current law is not what’s needed to fight gun violence in the city. He wants to raise the sentence for unlawful use of a firearm to a three-year mandatory minimum, and require anyone found guilty to serve 85 percent of that time. Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says there are at least 108 examples of shootings or murders in 2013 alone that would not have occurred if this bill was already in law.

The University of Chicago Crime Lab says parolees arrested for illegally carrying a firearm are four times more likely than other felons on parole to be arrested for murder, and nine times more likely for a non-lethal shooting. The lab says research suggests the threat of swift sanctions can deter crime and could hold true for gun violence. Not everyone buys that. John Maki of the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog group, says it’s the same old story. “This is how the United States has gone from a prison population of around 250,000 people in the early 1970s to about 2.3 million right now,” he says. “It’s always on the back of these really horrible tragedies.”

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