As any resident of the Chicagoland area is all too aware, the rate of gun violence in the city has reached truly staggering levels, leaving everyone from lawmakers to law enforcement officials desperately looking for answers.
Interestingly enough, many believe that at least a partial solution may have been found in the form of a gun trafficking law passed without opposition by both chambers of the General Assembly and signed into law late last month by Governor Bruce Rauner.
In general, Illinois is recognized as having rather restrictive gun laws, requiring all gun holders to secure a state-issued firearm owner’s identification card to purchase guns and/or ammunition, and for anyone selling a gun privately or commercially to perform a background check on prospective buyers.
According to law enforcement, however, many people skirt these laws by traveling to neighboring states with far less restrictive gun laws in order to make purchases and import guns into Illinois for sale on the black market. Indeed, statistics show that over 50 percent of firearms recovered at state crime scenes are ultimately traced back to other states, and that this number is as high as 60 percent in Chicago.
While gun trafficking has long been a crime in Illinois, prosecutors have argued that the penalties for a conviction were too lenient, such that there was no real deterrent effect.
This changes under the new law, however, as felony-level charges can be brought against individuals who bring firearms into Illinois without an FOID card with the intent to sell or deliver them to third parties. Indeed, penalties for a conviction now range from four to 20 years in prison for a first-time conviction for gun trafficking, and up to 30 years for subsequent convictions.
While many in Springfield and Chicago are lauding the new law, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have come out against it, arguing that the measure is both unnecessary given the existence of a similar federal law and unduly harsh.
It remains to be seen what effect, if any, this measure will have on violence throughout the state. However, those facing gun trafficking charges must understand that as of right now they are facing very serious consequences and, as such, should seriously consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.