CHICAGO – December 3, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn today signed a bill into law that will require prison time for street gang members convicted of possessing a loaded gun in a public area. This new law strengthens the current law which rules that gang members in possession of a loaded gun can be sentenced to probation.
“Public safety and crime prevention are of paramount importance to the law-abiding people of Illinois,” said Governor Quinn. “This new law I’m signing puts gang members on notice: If they get caught carrying a loaded gun in public, they will go to prison.”
The law was drafted and introduced by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and is named in honor of Chicago Police Officer Alejandro “Alex” Valadez, who was shot and killed on June 1, 2009 when he was responding to a call of shots fired in Chicago’s Englewood community. Officer Valadez was struck down by shots fired from a passing vehicle occupied by three suspected gang members. One of the three men charged in his murder was on probation for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon at the time Officer Valadez was killed.
“This new law will be an extremely important tool for police and prosecutors in the battle against gang and gun violence in our communities,” said State’s Attorney Alvarez. “It is our honor to name this bill in the memory of Officer Valadez, who made the ultimate sacrifice in his service to the citizens of Chicago.”
House Bill 4124 amends the Criminal Code of 1961 and the Unified Code of Corrections to create the non-probationable, class two felony offense of “unlawful possession of a firearm by a street gang member.” The offense occurs when street gang members unlawfully possess a firearm and ammunition in the areas where gang violence is most likely to occur – the streets, sidewalks and alleys of Illinois’ urban areas. Conviction under the new law requires a prison sentence of three to ten years.
“This legislation is grounded in common sense and helps us take a significant step forward in the fight against gangs, guns and drugs. It sends a message to gang bangers that the people of Illinois are committed to stand up to their violent ways,” said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago) and Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago) and is effective immediately.
The bill signing took place at the Chicago Police Department’s Seventh District Headquarters where Officer Valadez was based.