Mandatory prison time for gun crimes? NRA says no

Oct 14, 2013

When the Illinois General Assembly returns to Springfield next week, lawmakers will be asked to increase the minimum prison term for people convicted of illegal gun possession. Advocates of the plan say it's necessary to stem the tide of violence plaguing certain parts of Illinois. IPR'S Brian Mackey has more.

The proposal is relatively simple: if you're arrested with a gun you're not supposed to have, you go to prison for at least three years. Currently, it's possible to get probation, with no time in prison.

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly says while Chicago got a lot of attention last year for its high murder rate, five times the national average.

"Last year, in East St. Louis, which is in my county, it was 20 times the national average a couple years ago."So four times what Chicago is, in terms of per capita," Kelly says.

But there's opposition from the left and the right. The state Department of Corrections says it would result in thousands more inmates at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. That view is backed by the independent prison watchdog the John Howard Association.

Across the political spectrum is the National Rifle Association. It says the law could ensnare people with Illinois' new concealed carry permits who make a mistake about where they can and cannot bring their guns.