Supt. Johnson Testifies in Springfield as Lawmakers Discuss Bill to Strengthen Penalties for Repeat Gun Offenders

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson headed to Springfield Thursday to attend a hearing about a new gun bill he has repeatedly pleaded with lawmakers to pass.

The Illinois Senate hearing will discuss a bill calling for harsher penalties for repeat gun offenders. Rather than giving judges leeway to sentence repeat offenders from three to 14 years, the new proposal calls for a seven to 14-year sentence.

"I’ve been a police officer for 28 years. I’ve seen too many lives torn apart and too many parents lose a child," Johnson told lawmakers Thursday. "Quite frankly, as an African American leader, I’m disgusted. As a cop, I’m angry. We can do better. We must do better."

Johnson testified in support of the bill, calling it a "pivotal and incremental step in holding repeat gun offenders accountable and making our streets safer."

"Let me be clear: I am not seeking to mass incarcerate minorities, establish mandatory minimums, or take guns out of the hands of people who hold them legally," Johnson told legislators. "This legislation gives judges guidelines to sentence repeat gun offenders at the higher end of the already existing sentencing range. It also contains predicating violent offenses that will classify an individual as a repeat gun offender to ensure that we're not casting a wide net, but instead, using a spear to pinpoint the individuals that are driving the violence on our street."

Johnson and other Chicago officials have long called for tougher penalties for such offenses.

"There’s no deterring to taking a life when you know you’ll likely be out of jail in a matter of months,” Johnson said following the recent fatal shooting of an 11-year-old girl last month.

The child was one of two kids fatally shot within hours of each other.

Just days later, a 2-year-old boy was also killed in a shooting on the city’s West Side.

"We have yet another innocent child that's become a victim of gun violence," Johnson said at the time. "Our children should not have to keep paying the price for repeat gun offenders."

A 26-year-old man was ultimately charged in the shooting that killed the toddler and Johnson was quick to note the accused man was a known offender.

"As is the case, time and time and time again, the offender, 26-year-old Devon Swan is no stranger to CPD or the criminal justice system," Johnson said at a news conference announcing the charges Saturday afternoon. "He's a convicted felon who has been arrested nine times, including previous gun arrests for unlawful use of a weapon, armed robbery, escape from custody and numerous narcotic arrests. He's also a documented gang member who's been identified by the department on our strategic subject algorithm to be at higher risk as an offender or victim of gun violence."

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