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Could New Gun Legislation Overcrowd Prisons?
A state lawmaker has proposed a bill to increase sentences for gun crime convictions, and it's already facing resistance due to what it might mean for Illinois prisons.
The bill was put together by Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside.
There have already been some groups expressing concern about the idea, including the Illinois Department of Corrections.
They say with some of these new sentences, there simply isn't room for all those inmates.
"That is a concern," said Sangamon County Undersheriff Jack Campbell. "What good is this going to do if there's no room in the prisons? We have overcrowding in the county jail here, waiting for sentencing. So we're gonna deal with it here locally, and then we'll deal with it statewide with overcrowding."
According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, enacting this law would create another 3,860 inmates over 10 years.
That would require construction of a new prison or the re-opening a closed facility.
The agency estimates that would cost $263 million for construction and $701 million in operating expenses over 10 years.
But Zalewski said this bill is needed for public safety.
"There's really no fear of our gun laws right now in the state of Illinois, for those who choose to ignore them, and don't have a valid FOID card, or soon to be concealed carry permit, but carry a loaded gun anyway," said Zalewski. "So what we're trying to do is ensure that A, we have a deterrent effect, and B, we keep violent gun offenders off the street."
Zalewski said his bill focuses on repeat offenders.
Campbell agrees with the idea behind the legislation.
"This bill, it appears right now to us, that it's going to give more teeth to the state's attorney's office to sentence these repeat offenders," Campbell said. "And I think, if you don't get the message the first time, maybe it's a good thing that we lock you up for a little longer."
Campbell thinks the bill would help go after criminals, not law-abiding gun owners.
"I think there is gonna be discretion here, with the state's attorney's office," Campbell said. "And even law enforcement will have discretion whether or not to arrest or file charges. I think for the ones that truly are violating this law, with nefarious intentions, they will have to pay a steeper price."
We also spoke with Todd Vandermyde, who's a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.
He said currently, that organization is opposed to the bill because of the minimum sentences.
He's afraid that out-of-state concealed carry permit holders, unaware of Illinois laws, could get busted and see serious jail time.
Reporting in Sangamon County, Mike Brooks, ABC NewsChannel 20.
Click here to download a fact sheet prepared by Zalewski on the proposed legislation. (Word document)