Mayor Emanuel's proposal to reduce gun violence stalls in Springfield

May 19, 2014

AP/File
File: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, listens as Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy speaks at a news conference surrounded by the members of families affected by gun violence Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Chicago.

A proposed state law intended to help reduce gun violence in Chicago is being shelved in Springfield in favor of forming a new committee to investigate the issue.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy have prioritized longer prison sentences for gun crimes as a way to reduce the city’s gun violence. The bill had called for increasing the mandatory prison sentence for unlawful use of a weapon to a minimum of three years in prison.

That measure saw some strong opposition from Illinois lawmakers who said it would add inmates to an already overcrowded prison system.

State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, wanted the longer prison sentences, but now says he’s open to new compromises on several proposals to restructure sentencing guidelines. He referenced recent shootings in Chicago over the weekend as the reason he still  supports the measure for mandatory prison sentences.

“My guess is that many of those were committed by those who have no fear of our gun laws,” Zalewski said. “I tried to start the conversation with my bills earlier this year, but the conversations moved into a new direction and so I’m hopeful that all that will come into play.”

Zalewski is scheduled to ask a committee of House members Tuesday to create a small panel of Republicans and Democrats from both the House and Senate. That panel would lead discussions over the course of the year to negotiate sentencing guidelines.

“If we can put a strategy in place that makes sure that the violent gun offenders are incarcerated and that (Supt. McCarthy) doesn’t see them back out on the street in six months or four months or get a sentence like boot camp where they’re back out in ten weeks, it makes his job a whole lot easier,“ Zalewski said.

Spokesmen for the mayor’s office and the Chicago Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

WBEZ’s Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.