Anti-gun bill remains same for first time offenders - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Anti-gun bill remains same for first time offenders

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Anti-gun legislation is going to the Illinois House floor without changing the penalty for first-time offenders.

The Judiciary Committee voted 12-2 for legislation toughening sentences for repeat criminals.

Mayor Emanuel and others wanted a New York-style, minimum 3-year prison sentence for anyone caught in illegal possession of firearms. Now, they've agreed to exempt first-time offenders.

Rep. Michael Zalewski amended the initiative to keep the current sentence -- one year for the first time someone is caught with a loaded, unlicensed gun. Offenders will still get out in six months instead of having to serve 85 percent of their sentences.

That was a non-negotiable demand by pro-gun legislators and the local chapter of the National Rifle Association, who feared locking up otherwise innocent gun-owners for "stupid mistakes."

The mayor gave ground on first offenders, but defended the compromise.

"Dramatic increase in penalties," Emanuel said. "So, compared to what's on the books that was referred to by gang members as a joke, that is real stiff penalties with a clear message that you're gonna serve time for doing the crime."

The bill would hit previously convicted felons found illegally possessing firearms; and those with prior convictions related to being street gang members would face a mandatory four years in prison.

The compromise sailed through committee late Wednesday and could be voted on by the full House on Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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