Online Staff Report
Both state Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Freeport, and state Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, joined Republicans in the Illinois House of Representatives March 12 in unveiling the “Protect Our Children” legislative initiative.
The bill package aims to keep children and communities safe from violence through gang violence prevention and conflict resolution education.
“Gang violence has regrettably taken the lives of too many young people in Illinois, leaving behind our families to ever deal with the consequences,” said Sacia. “The well-crafted, common-sense plan calls for increased penalties for gang-related gun offenses, strengthens Illinois’ gang recruitment statute, improves mental health reporting, and promotes school violence prevention.”
Cabello added: “Gang violence is claiming the lives of children and law-abiding citizens; we must do more to keep kids safe. One way to do that is through prevention, keeping kids out of gangs to begin with.
“Over my 20 years in law enforcement, I have only seen gang violence grow and escalate,” Cabello said. “Children are being recruited for gangs as young as 10 years old, middle school-aged. We have an obligation to give law enforcement the tools they need to put the bad guys behind bars.”
The package of bills includes the following array of measures targeting gang violence:
• 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 three up to four years and makes it a non-probationable offense. The legislation also requires 85 percent truth in sentencing for many gun offenses by felons and known gang members.
• House Bill 3009 cracks down on gang recruitment in communities. Illinois’ gang recruitment law currently requires prosecutors to prove 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.
• House Bill 1925 (Floor Amendment No. 1) utilizes gun offense fines to enhance mental health reporting. A recent audit conducted by Auditor General Bill Holland found that because of 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 No. 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.
Posted March 13, 2013