Graham passes stronger gun control measures

Two bills would make guns safer and force gun violators to serve jail time.

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By ROBERT FELTON

On March 16, State Representative Deborah Graham (D-78th) came that much closer to changing the way the state handles crimes related to firearm possession.

Both bills under her sponsorship (House Bill 524 and House Bill 1349) were passed in the House of Representatives virtually unanimously and will now go to the State Senate where they are expected to be passed as well.

Graham has always been an avid supporter of legislation that not only provides harsher sentences for violators of unlawful use of a weapon laws but also those that protect children from gun-related injury that may occur to children within the home.

"The bottom line is that if you are a convicted felon and commit a crime or get caught with a gun, you will to jail," Graham said. "There are too many people dying on our streets. I hope that convicted felons will think twice about committing a crime or possessing a firearm."

H.B. 524 would require mandatory jail sentences for certain existing firearm violations. These offenses would lead to jail time between three and seven years. The bill would also eliminate the option of probation for offenders, forcing them to serve their entire sentence. Among the crimes the bills seeks to crack down on are:

? Sale, manufacture, purchase or possession of a firearm unless you are a licensed dealer.

? Possession of a silencing device 1,000 feet from a school, public park or courthouse.

? Aggravated unlawful use of a weapon for a second offense or when the offender is a convicted felon in Illiois or another state.

There will also be a mandatory sentence of 3-14 years for a second violation of the following offenses:

? A felony violation of the firearm laws or Firearm Owners Identification Card Act.

? Possession of a firearm by a felon in a Department of Corrections facility.

? Stalking or aggravated stalking.

? Possession by a person who is not in a penal institution but is convicted of a forcible felony.

"Both bills went over quite well with both the Democratic and Republican members of the House which I was quite happy about," said Graham. "Many Republicans are firm supporters of laws protecting the right to bear arms, but they were able to see the benefits of the two bills."

The second bill, H.B. 1349 would require hadguns to be sold with trigger-lock safety devices. The bill would prohibit the sale, rent or transfer of a handgun manufactured on or after January 1, 2006 unless it is sold with an exteral safety device.

"In the original proposal, we were pushing for an interal device that would lock the trigger mechanism from within," said Graham. "However, we were told that the capability to affordably integrate locks interally would be imposssible right now, so we opted for the next best thing: external locks over the triggers that will prevent accidental deaths within the homes and schools."

Attorney General Lisa Madigan agrees saying, "In today's world, we require child safety devices ranging from car seats to childproof pill bottles. This is common sense legislation. Child safety devices for firearms will help prevent children from harming themselves or other children with lethal weapons and help avoid senseless tragedies that take young lives."

If the bill passes in the senate, only guns with locks can be purchased in the state and those purchased before Jan. 1 will have to show proof that the weapon was bought before the law took effect or face fines or jail.

The legislation will also lead to the forming of an 11-member Handgun Roster Board, which will include the director of the Illinois State Police and 10 members appointed by the Governor. The board will review the status of handgun technology, assuring the locks are always updated and functional, and report its fidings annually to the Governor and General Assembly.

"Too many children and innocent people are dying on our streets every day," Graham said. "I will do whatever is necessary to keep guns away from children and out of the hands of criminals. I am committed to continuing my fight for stronger gun control legislation."

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