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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 13, 2000

Ryan Signs Safe Neighborhood Package Reinstating Felony Gun Bill And Protecting Citizens

CHICAGO – Governor George H. Ryan today signed legislation reinstating the Illinois’ Safe Neighborhoods Act including making the illegal possession of a firearm a felony crime and substantially increasing penalties for other gun offenses.

At a Humboldt Park Grade school ceremony with Mayor Richard M. Daley, legislators, victim’s families, law enforcement, physicians and concerned citizens, Governor Ryan reenacted the laws that were struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court five months ago. The House and Senate passed the legislation, including the felony penalties for the illegal possession of a gun in House Bill 739, with overwhelming support.

"The passage of this legislation was a test—not of power, but of commitment to the people of this state to find a way to protect people and their rights," Ryan said. "With the Safe Neighborhoods laws in force, our states attorneys and law enforcement can do their job, which is to put criminals behind bars," he said.

With cooperation and compromise from the General Assembly, Ryan said legislators were able to reach an agreement before the end of scheduled adjournment for spring session. The Safe Neighborhood package included Senate and House Bills 1359, 1361, 1362, 1363, 1364, 1365 and 739.

House Bill 739, which encompassed the felony provisions for unlawful use of a weapon, was sponsored by state Rep. Tom Cross, R-Yorkville, and Senate President James "Pate" Philip, R-Wood Dale. The bill creates the "aggravated" unlawful use of a weapon, which gives prosecutors more flexibility in securing charges. The bill goes into affect immediately.

House Bill 739 seeks felony penalties for the illegal possession of a firearm if:

  • The firearm is uncased, loaded and immediately accessible.
  • The firearm is uncased, unloaded and ammunition for the weapon is immediately available.
  • The person with the firearm has no valid Firearms Owner Identification Card.
  • The person with the firearm was previously convicted of a felony as a juvenile.
  • The person with the firearm is committing a misdemeanor violation of the Cannabis Control Act or the Controlled Substances Act.
  • The person with the firearm is engaged in street-gang related activity.
  • The person with the firearm had an order of protection issued against him or her within the last two years.
  • The person with the firearm was engaged in the commission of a misdemeanor involving the use or threatened use of violence against another person or property.
  • The person with the firearm was under 21 years of age and in possession of a handgun unless the person is engaged in lawful activities under the Wildlife Code.

Ryan signed the legislation at Chase Elementary School in Chicago because it is near the site where 3-year-old German Morales was killed in his front yard by a gang member’s stray bullet. "Today, I am here to tell you -- the people who are fighting to make your communities safer -- that we accomplished our mission. Safe Neighborhoods will be back on the books, including the felony penalties for the illegal possession of a gun," Ryan said.

"Illinois will be a safer place to live and work. These bills landed on my desk late yesterday and today we are making history. Starting today, police officers in Chicago and across Illinois once again will have this law to charge gang members and gunmen with a felony for carrying a loaded weapon."

The Safe Neighborhoods Act originally passed by the General Assembly in 1994. Along with the provisions dealing with penalties for the unlawful use of weapons, the Safe Neighborhoods Act contained elements dealing with numerous crimes.

In December of 1999, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the multi-faceted Safe Neighborhoods Act--on a technicality, not on the merits of the act--including the provision that made the illegal possession of a firearm a felony crime. The debate over this provision stalled the reenactment of the entire law. During the five years that the illegal possession of a firearm was a felony, the number of arrests for illegal weapons declined, as did the rate of violent crime in Illinois.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley thanked everyone who supported the Safe Neighborhood’s Act, including the thousands of people who rallied, wrote letters and called legislators to show their support. "We now have a law that is very close to the old law when it comes to guns and that retains the other anti-crime provisions of the old law. Our police will still have the power to enforce the felony gun provision pretty much as they have in the past," Daley said.

Brad Fralick, Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said that during the five month period after the courts struck down the law, an average nine cases a day of aggravated DUI were affected in Illinois. "We are very pleased after five months of strenuous work to see that a workable compromise has been reached and we can reinstate the enhanced penalties," Fralick added.

Legislators, law enforcement, concerned citizens and public officials applauded the Governor’s efforts to push for this landmark legislation. Senate President James "Pate" Philip, R-Wood Dale said, "This is a tough anti-crime package that we can all be proud to support. It sends a strong message to gangbangers and thugs that the punishment will fit the crime." Attorney General Jim Ryan will work with legislators in implementing the legislation.

"The reenactment of the compromise Safe Neighborhoods Act is significant. It is a tool that police and prosecutors will use to combat crime and fight gun violence in every region of the state," said Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan. "Governor Ryan’s perseverance and the willingness of legislators to compromise means the people of this state will be well served," he said.

House Republican Leader Lee Daniels said, "I commend the Governor and the General Assembly for recognizing the importance of passing the Safe Neighborhoods legislative package. By passing these laws, we’re sending a clear signal to criminals that the illegal use of firearms will not be tolerated in Illinois."

Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones said, "While we had hoped that a compromise could have been reached last December, this legislation provides law enforcement officials with the tools they need to prevent illegal gun possession and keep gang bangers off the streets of our communities.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which regulates firearm owners’ registration, has been a vital part of the debate on the felony provisions of the law.

"This legislation keeps criminals off the streets, while protecting the rights of law abiding sportsmen to participate in hunting and other shooting sports," said DNR Director Brent Manning, a hunter, competitive shooter and member of many sportsmen's organizations.

The Alliance of Legislative Initiatives for Violence Elimination also commended the Governor and legislators for prevailing on the side of Illinois residents who favor the Safe Neighborhoods laws. Elizabeth Coolidge, Board Chair of the Illinois Council

Against Handgun Violence, is a member of the ALIVE coalition. "We applaud Governor Ryan's unwavering dedication to the safety of the citizens of Illinois," Coolidge said.

"The Governor’s commitment to the reinstatement of the felony provision for illegal gun use will result in the preservation of countless lives across Illinois. The positive effects of this legislation on the lives of our citizens, especially our children, will be evident for years to come," she added.

Other members of ALIVE include the Bell Campaign, Chicago Police Department, The City of Chicago, Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Will County Sheriff’s Office, Illinois State Police, Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Illinois, North and South Suburban Chiefs of Police organizations, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

In addition to Rep. Cross, sponsors of Senate Bills 1359 and 1361 to 1365 were representatives John Fritchey, D-Chicago; Jim Brosnahan, D-Evergreen Park; Tom Dart, D-Chicago; John Turner, R-Atlanta; Dale Righter, R-Mattoon; Brent Hassert, R-Romeoville; Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago; Elizabeth Coulson, R-Glenview; Harry Osterman, D-Chicago; Vince Persico, R-Glen Ellyn; Joe Lyons, D-Chicago; Mike McAuliffe, R-Chicago; Calvin Giles, D-Chicago; Patricia Lindner, R-Aurora; William Delgado, D-Chicago; Sidney Mathias, R-Buffalo Grove; Sonia Silva, D-Chicago; Eileen Lyons, R-Western Springs; Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston; Tim Schmitz, R-Batavia;

Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville; Dave Winters, R-Shirland; Ron Wait, R-Belvidere; Lauren Beth Gash, D-Highland Park; Terry Parke, R-Hoffman Estates; Lou Lang, D-Skokie; Suzanne Bassi, R-Palatine; Louvana Jones, D-Chicago; and Rick Winkel, R-Champaign.

Senate sponsors included Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale; Larry Bomke, R-Springfield; Patrick O’Malley, R-Palos Park; Christine Radogno, R-LaGrange; Duane Noland, R-Blue Mound; Kathleen Parker, R-Northfield; Dave Sullivan, R-Mt. Prospect; Wendell Jones,

R-Palatine; Walter Dudycz, R-Chicago; and John Cullerton, D-Chicago.

(See attached for a complete list of testimonial quotes and synopsis of the legislation on the Safe Neighborhoods laws.)

 

SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD LAW SUPPORTERS QUOTES:

Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago

"I am very happy to be here today to participate in the signing of the Safe Neighborhoods Act and to congratulate Governor Ryan and everyone else who worked so hard to reenact this very important anti-crime legislation."

Illinois Senate President James "Pate" Philip

"This is a tough anti-crime package that we can all be proud to support. It sends a strong message to gangbangers and thugs that the punishment will fit the crime."

Illinois Speaker Michael Madigan

"The reenactment of the compromise Safe Neighborhoods Act is significant. It is a tool that police and prosecutors will use to combat crime and fight gun violence in every region of the state. Governor Ryan’s perseverance and the willingness of legislators to compromise means the people of this state will be well served."

House Republican Leader Lee Daniels

"I commend the Governor and the General Assembly for recognizing the importance of passing the Safe Neighborhoods legislative package. By passing these laws, we’re sending a clear signal to criminals that the illegal use of firearms will not be tolerated in Illinois."

Senate Democratic Leader Emil Jones

"While we had hoped that a compromise could have been reached last December, this legislation provides law enforcement officials with the tools they need to prevent illegal gun possession and keep gang bangers off the streets of our communities."

Nicholas Weiss from the North Suburban Chiefs of Police

"I am happy this compromised was reached. It reinstates the felony charge for unlawful use of a weapon and I believe it satisfies the concerns of those who were against the felony charge."

Elizabeth Coolidge, Board Chair of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence

"We applaud Governor Ryan's unwavering dedication to the safety of the citizens of Illinois. The Governor’s commitment to the reinstatement of the felony provision for illegal gun use will result in the preservation of countless lives across Illinois. The positive effects of this legislation on the lives of our citizens, especially our children, will be evident for years to come."

Bradley Fralick, Director Mothers Against Drunk Driving

"We are very pleased after 5 months of strenuous work to see that a workable compromise has been reached and we can reinstate the enhanced penalties of DUI."

Russell B. Laine, Illinois Association Of Chiefs Of Police

"We're very pleased to have this law reinstated as a tool to combat crime. This is very useful for law enforcement and very good for our communities."

DNR Director Brent Manning, a hunter, competitive shooter and member of many sportsmen's organizations

"This legislation keeps criminals off the streets, while protecting the rights of law abiding sportsmen to participate in hunting and other shooting sports."

Steve Young, Midwest Director of the Bell Campaign

"Restoring the penalty for carrying a gun in public to a felony brings a lot of incentive for criminals to leave their guns at home. Felony UUW was on the books for five years and the results were clear. It reduced the number of guns on the streets, reduced shootings, and reduced homicides. Felony UUW saves lives and that’s the bottom line."

Michael F. Sheahan, Cook County Sheriff

"I share Governor Ryan’s commitment to fighting gun violence and I am pleased that the Governor and legislature have restored crucial elements of the Safe Neighborhoods Act that will enable law enforcement to more effectively fight crime."

Mrs. Sherialyn K. Byrdsong, Widow of Ricky Byrdsong, Former Northwestern Basketball Coach, Chicago, Illinois

"The Ricky Byrdsong Foundation is committed to addressing the heart issues that contribute to the epidemic of hate and violence in our country. We believe that curbing the availability of all devices to which individuals have access enabling them to commit acts of violence should be continuously and vigorously pursed. We applaud all efforts to make every neighborhood safe in our nation and the great State of Illinois."

Safe Neighborhoods Law Facts

The Illinois General Assembly voted to support the Safe Neighborhood laws, which included Senate and House Bills 1359, 1361, 1362, 1363, 1364, 1365 and 739. House Bill 739 creates the "aggravated" unlawful use of a weapon, which gives prosecutors more flexibility in securing charges. The bill was sponsored by Senate President James "Pate" Philip, R-Wood Dale, and state Rep. Tom Cross, R-Yorkville.

  • Gang members convicted of intimidation or harassing jurors or witnesses get 10 years in prison – not five.
  • Judges can sentence gangbangers to extended terms for any felony crimes.
  • Gang members have to serve 120 hours of community service when they’re on probation.
  • Criminals convicted of committing a felony with a handgun get a minimum 15 years in prison – not six. Without the Act in place, criminals convicted of using a gun during a felony could be out on the street in three years.
  • Any person prohibited by law from possessing a firearm and caught with a gun will be charged with a felony – not a misdemeanor.
  • Sets penalties for gunrunning for illegally selling three or more weapons and raises penalty for selling guns on school property.
  • Anyone intentionally destroying the serial number on a firearm will be charged with a felony, not a misdemeanor.
  • Police cannot trade or sell confiscated guns, keeping them off the streets.
  • People out on bail who are caught in possession of a firearm are charged with a felony, not a misdemeanor.
  • A person charged with stalking or domestic battery who is out on bail must surrender all firearms in their possession.
  • The penalties are raised for the attempted murder or aggravated battery of a police officer, prison guard, fire fighter or paramedic.
  • The legal definitions of prostitution, solicitation, pandering, pimping and exploitation are strengthened.
  • Parents who knowingly allow their children to be sexually abused or force them into prostitution will be charged with a felony – not a misdemeanor.
  • Drunk drivers violating a restricted drivers permit or a judicial drivers permit must spend a minimum of seven days in jail or perform 30 hours of community service.
  • Convicted drunk drivers caught for DUI while their license is suspended or revoked must spend a minimum of 30 days in jail or perform 720 hours of community service.
  • Drunk drivers who commit a second DUI within five years of their first offense must spend two days in jail or perform 10 hours of community service.
  • The sentence for aggravated DUI is raised from four years to 12 years.
  • First-time drug offenders on probation must undergo drug tests and perform community service.


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