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Representative La Shawn Ford
Illinois’s mandatory gun enhancements are the most severe in the U.S. They drive long sentences and contribute to prison overcrowding.
In Illinois, judges are required to add 15, 20, or 25 years to prison sentences of defendants who had firearms during the commission of certain felonies. Fifteen years are added if a firearm is possessed but not discharged; 20 are added if the gun is discharged with no injuries; and 25 are added if there is a death or grievous injury.
In other states, the enhancement for firearm possession tends to range from 1 to 5 years. Many states do not criminalize firearm possession at all, while others allow judges the discretion to apply or withhold enhancements based on the context of each case.
In 2015, Illinois officials took an important step with HB2471 to make firearm enhancements discretionary for juveniles. In the first year of implementation of HB2471, judges departed from applying the sentencing enhancement in 14 out of 16 homicide cases involving firearms and juvenile defendants. Now, HB4376 would make firearm enhancements discretionary for both juveniles and adults. Judges would have the authority to decide whether the enhancements make sense on a case-by-case basis. They could still choose to apply the enhancements.
The bill was introduced in the House on February 2, 2019.