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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 28, 1999

Ryan Calls On Senate To Pass Safe Neighborhoods Act To Combat Gun Violence And Domestic Abuse

Governor George H. Ryan today stepped up his call on the Illinois Senate to re-enact the state's "Safe Neighborhoods Act" this week; reminding people in Elk Grove Village, Rockford and Springfield that the law has been an effective tool against gun violence and domestic battery.

"This law is about preventing crimes and saving lives," Ryan said. "It's about getting illegal guns, drunk drivers, sexual abusers, gangbangers and violent people off the streets and out of our neighborhoods. I am committed to restoring the Safe Neighborhoods Act - and making Illinois a safer place to live and work."

Ryan took his message to the emergency room at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, to the W.A.V.E. shelter in Rockford and to the Sojourn Shelter in Springfield.

With these visits, the governor emphasized that the Safe Neighborhoods Act has proven to be a vital tool in the prevention of gun violence and domestic abuse. The Act was overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court on Dec. 2.

Ryan is insisting that the new Safe Neighborhoods Act include a provision that makes the unlawful possession of a loaded firearm a felony crime in Illinois - not a misdemeanor.

Without the Safe Neighborhoods Act in force, criminals caught with a loaded gun can be back on the streets within hours after their arrest.

"Alexian Brothers Medical Center has provided a vivid example of the importance of the Safe Neighborhoods law through their care for the victims of gun violence," Ryan said. "Innocent women, children and men have been victims of senseless gun violence.

"Police throughout the suburbs have seized hundreds of weapons from people looking to do harm; dangerous criminals who are now out on the street with a slap on the wrist because the Safe Neighborhoods Act is not back on the books," he added.

In Rockford and Springfield, Ryan pointed out the importance of the Safe Neighborhoods Act in cases of domestic violence and stalking. Under the legislation, anyone arrested for domestic battery or stalking had to surrender all of their firearms in order to get of jail on bail. Without the Act in place, arrested abusers are not forced to surrender their weapons.

"Without those laws on the books, this W.A.V.E. facility is bound to see an influx of women who need their help," Ryan said. "Every nine seconds in America, a woman is victimized by domestic violence. More than 40 percent of all female homicide victims die at the hands of a husband, boyfriend or ex-partner."

At the Sojourn Shelter in Springfield, the governor added that time is of the essence and that it is important for the Senate to act this week when it returns for a Special Session on Wednesday, Dec. 29.

"Without that law in place, it is easier for domestic abusers to get back on the streets - and to resume violent acts," Ryan said. "The women and children here at the Sojourn Center cannot afford to have lawmakers play politics with their safety. While lawmakers bicker, the violence continues."

Ryan noted that without the Safe Neighborhoods Act in place, more than 650 people have been arrested across the state for illegally possessing a loaded firearm. In each of those cases, the illegal possession of a loaded firearm carries only a misdemeanor penalty - up to a year in jail.

The Safe Neighborhoods Act, originally passed by the general Assembly in 1994, was overturned on December 2 by the Illinois Supreme Court on a technicality concerning the way the law was passed - not on the merits of the act.

Concerned by the effects that decision has on the ability of law enforcement to fight crime, Ryan called the General Assembly into special session on December 13th to deal with the re-enactment of the law.

However, a small group of legislators has stalled re-enactment of the Safe Neighborhoods Act because of their opposition to one important provision in the legislation - a felony penalty for the unlawful use of a weapon, a crime that includes illegal possession of a loaded firearm. This group of legislators wants the unlawful use of a weapon to carry a simple misdemeanor charge - the same penalty for shoplifting a pair of socks.


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