Prosecutors, judges need greater accountability
State Senator Neil Anderson filed legislation this week aimed at holding judges and prosecutors accountable for giving lesser charges or light sentences to those who commit gun crimes.
“Too often we see a defendant charged with an offense involving the illegal use or possession of a firearm, but then enter into a plea agreement where that charge is reduced to a non-weapons charge, or they receive a light sentence by the court for their offense,” said Sen. Anderson. “As legislators, we’re constantly being asked what can be done legislatively to curb gun violence. At some point, we have to recognize that the laws we already have in place are good ones, they just need to be enforced to the full extent.”
Senate Bill 148 requires a state’s attorney to file a written statement of his or her reasoning for giving someone a lesser offense when charged with a gun-related felony. Judges, too, have to submit a written statement giving reason for the sentence they imposed or why they accepted the plea agreement.
For example, in 2017, a Cook County woman pleaded guilty to selling guns illegally to a man with ties to a Chicago gang. She was arrested on four felonies, but rather than a prison sentence, was given probation.
“This is just one example of many straw purchasers who are getting off the hook for these serious crimes,” said Sen. Anderson. “Cases like this are happening all too often, and there’s no good reason for it. No matter how strong our laws are, they are only as good as the people who apply them. My legislation would hold those people accountable and ensure more transparency.”
Sen. Anderson is certain this move would be a strong first step in reducing gun crimes in the State of Illinois.