Springfield–(ENEWSPF)–March 12, 2013. State Representative Jim Durkin and a group of House Republican legislators today introduced new legislation to help keep our children and our communities safe from violence. Durkin (R-Western Springs) said the measures in the “Protect Our Children” initiative target the greatest threats to our children’s safety – gang and school-related violence.
“We cannot sit idle with the catastrophic gun violence occurring in the streets of Chicago on a daily basis. We know the enemy – the street gangs and members of the drug trade. We can no longer tolerate the loss of innocent children and law-abiding citizens. We are taking a harsh but necessary position with these bills to rid our neighborhoods of this criminal element,” Durkin said.
“We need to constantly be working on and setting policies in Springfield that protect the next generation,” said Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego). “We believe these proposals introduced today will better protect our children across the state.”
- House Bill 3217 increases penalties for gang-related gun offenses. It increases the minimum sentence for possession of a firearm by a street gang member from 3 up to 4 years and makes it a non-probationable offense. The legislation also requires 85% truth in sentencing for many gun offenses by felons and known gang members.
- House Bill 3009 cracks down on gang recruitment in our communities. Illinois’ gang recruitment law currently requires prosecutors to prove that the defendant used force or coercion to recruit another person into a gang. This legislation adds two new felony offenses for recruiting adults (Class 4 Felony) or minors (Class 3 Felony) to join gangs that do not require proof of physical force.
“This is a well-crafted, common sense approach to cracking down on violence in our schools and communities,” said Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Freeport). “I look forward to working with all of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this important legislation that will protect our children, and make Illinois a safer place to live.”
Other measures in the plan improve mental health reporting and school violence prevention:
- House Bill 1925 (Floor Amendment #1) utilizes gun offense fines to enhance mental health reporting. A recent audit conducted by Auditor General Bill Holland found that due to deficiencies in the reporting of individuals with potentially disqualifying mental health conditions, State Police don’t always receive information needed to revoke or deny FOID cards. This proposal imposes an additional $50 fine on defendants convicted of certain firearm offenses to fund continuing education for circuit judges and circuit court clerks to improve the reporting of mental health prohibitors to the State Police.
- House Bill 1978 (Floor Amendment #1) improves conflict resolution education in schools. To help prevent school-related violence, this legislation ensures school districts will provide instruction and training in violence prevention and conflict resolution education as part of social-emotional learning standards for all students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12. The State Board of Education and local school boards are not required to implement these provisions unless funding is available from private sources, the State, or the federal government.
“What we are seeing is the presence of mental illness more and more in the individuals who are committing these heinous gun crimes,” said Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy). “We need to improve reporting and communication between our court systems and the State Police to ensure we keep firearms out of the hands of persons who may be suffering mental health problems and have the potential to harm others or themselves. We also need to improve access to mental health programs and get these folks the help they need before they act. I think these bills will be a good step toward those goals.”
“These bills are a common sense move considering the record number of murders and gang-related violence in Chicago and across the state,” added former prosecutor and state Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst). “These proposals outline a good start to further crack down on gangs, stop the killings and give children the protection that they deserve.”