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Illinois lawmakers look to remove mandatory sentence enhancements for gun crimes

Illinois state Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago). | Photo via Illinois House Democratic Caucus.

(The Center Square) – Illinois democratic lawmakers are looking at removing some mandatory sentence enhancements for crimes like shootings and unlawful possession of a gun.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford’s legislation would give a sentencing judge discretion over whether to tack on more than a decade in prison for gun-related felonies.

Ford introduced the bill, HB 2989, on February 19 and amended the bill with changes on March 19.

Supporters of the change say there are too many circumstances where someone is convicted to a sentence that’s far more severe than the crime they committed due to these mandatory sentences.

“These types of sentencing enhancements do not deter crime,” said Scott Main, attorney for the Illinois Juvenile Defender Resource Center.

Restore Justice Illinois said they support HB 2989 because Illinois has the “most extreme firearm enhancements in the country.”

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The group claims that the sentencing enhancements “lead to extreme sentences and are bad for families, communities and society.”

Retired Judge Andrew Berman spoke in support of the measure, saying judges should be given the discretion they’ve historically been entrusted with.

“Trust your judges,” he said. “The rationale for having judges in the first place is to have a thoughtful, fair-minded person consider the unique circumstances of each case and each defendant when imposing sentence.”

Republicans on the committee opposed the measure, pointing to possibly reducing punishments for gun crimes while the same committee has several restrictions on legal gun ownership.

“Paralleling this all across the General Assembly are lots of bills being thrown out there to restrict the use of firearms and restrict access to firearms of law-abiding citizens,” said Rep. Chris Bos, R-Lake Zurich.

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“These are the very people that are committing the crimes that we need to be going after,” Bos said.

Ford said he would amend the bill in an effort to compromise with some of the opponents and return it for reconsideration.

“I’m grateful to my colleagues for their willingness to bring reasonable and responsible criminal sentencing to our state – and end the injustice of mandatory additions of decades to sentences when the facts of a case don’t call for them,” Ford said later Friday.

The Center Square and Lake and McHenry County Scanner both contributed to this story.