Chicago's top cop returned to Springfield Thursday to continue calling on lawmakers to keep repeat gun felons off city streets and in prison longer.
Supt. Eddie Johnson testified before a House committee Thursday morning, personally lobbying for a stronger gun sentencing bill that has cleared the state Senate and is up next in the Illinois House.
The proposal changes the current gun sentencing from three to 14 years, giving the judge’s discretion to sentence offenders from seven to 14 years.
Johnson said the "cycle of violence just continues in our city" and believes stronger sentences will send a message.
Critics claim the measure would lock up more minorities when the state should concentrate on creating jobs and opportunity for impoverished neighborhoods.
"I’m not seeking to mass-incarcerate minorities or establish additional mandatory minimums, or take guns out of the hands of people who hold them legally," Johnson said. "This legislation gives judges the guidelines to sentence repeat gun offenders at the higher end of the already existing sentencing range."
One of the sponsors of SB1722, State Sen. Kwame Raoul, also testified at the hearing, saying, "This bill is not a cure-all to the violence in Chicago or outside of Chicago, but I do believe it is something that will help."
GOP House Leader Jim Durkin is proposing an amendment to provide a break for first-time offenders, to address those who are concerned that the tougher sentences will send more minorities to prison.
If the proposal clears the House committee, the gun sentencing bill could head to the full House floor for a vote.
Johnson has long been pushing the passage of the bill, which would create tougher sentences for gun offenders. He told a Senate committee in March that criminals tell him they don't fear the state's judicial system.
The Illinois Senate approved the tougher sentences last month, voting 35-9.
“The gang members know that when it comes to judges, the courts and sentencing it’s a joke. And that should not exist," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.
Chicago recorded more homicides last year than New York City and Los Angeles combined.