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Study: One out of nine Illinois prisoners were sentenced for illegal possession of a firearm

Thursday, Jun 13, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Loyola’s Center for Criminal Justice

In 2021, Loyola’s Center for Criminal Justice published the first detailed analysis of sentencing for individuals convicted of illegal possession of a firearm offenses in Illinois. The Center’s prior research found that each year in Illinois there are three to four times more arrests for the illegal possession of a firearm than there are for the use of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime, and arrests for firearm possession offenses have increased substantially since 2016. This research brief updates and expands the Center’s prior research to examine trends and patterns of sentences to prison for the illegal possession of a firearm in Illinois and how long individuals serve in prison for these offenses. It is important to note that prison sentences in 2020 dropped from prior years for all offenses because of criminal court hearings and trials being suspended or curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, this research brief focuses on sentencing trends between 2019 (pre-pandemic) and 2023.

Key Takeaways

    • The total number of prison sentences for illegal possession of a firearm increased 57% between 2019 and 2023, driven by increased arrests. The number of prison sentences for all other major crime categories fell during this period.
    • The number of prison sentences for illegal possession of a firearm in 2022 and 2023 was the highest ever seen in Illinois—reaching 3,342 in 2023.
    • Most sentences to prison for these offenses were imposed in Cook County (Chicago), although increases were seen across Illinois.
    • Most of those sentenced to prison for these offenses were Black (75%) men (95%) with an average age of 31 years old.
    • The length of prison sentences increased steadily for Class 2 felony illegal possession of a firearm.
    • The overall amount of time served among those sentenced to prison for illegal possession of a firearm increased, due to changes in policy regarding sentencing credits and longer prison sentences.
    • The number of people in prison for illegal possession of a firearm increased 62% between 2010 to 2023, while those incarcerated for all other offenses fell 41%.
    • At the end of 2023, one out of every nine individuals in prison in Illinois had been sentenced for illegal possession of a firearm.

* As an aside, the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, the Illinois State Rifle Association and others backed a bill this spring to change the “unlawful use of a weapon” (UUW) charge’s name to “unlawful possession of a weapon,” because so many arrests were made of people who merely possessed a gun. The Illinois State’s Attorney Association and the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association were eventually moved to neutral.

Anyway, discuss.

       

25 Comments
  1. - family matters - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 12:29 pm:

    Sounds good to me. If you want a gun so badly, you should have to go through the very reasonable (some may argue too reasonable) requirements to getting one.

    If you can’t play by those simple rules not really sure I want you walking around with a killing machine.


  2. - thechampaignlife - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 1:08 pm:

    ===Sounds good to me===

    Same. As a witness to a fatal shooting (and several non-fatal ones) and a gunowner myself, I am all for regulation and enforcement.


  3. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 1:14 pm:

    Use a gun in a crime, get locked up.

    I’m tired of the almost daily Facebook posts, “was that gun shots or fireworks?”

    Summer is here now, and the evening nights are interrupted by the sounds of gun fire too often in my neighborhood. Lock them up until they’re so old their fingers can’t pull another trigger.

    Or make it a lot more difficult to get guns. Those seem to be the choices. If there is another option, let me know.


  4. - Jerry - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 1:24 pm:

    I agree with both commenters above. The Constitution of the United States of America clearly mandates “A well-regulated Militia….” Even the gun club (nra) supported this at one time.


  5. - Proud Papa Bear - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 1:28 pm:

    I’m completely for enforcement of gun laws but the statistics bother me. 75% of those sent to prison are Black but our state is only about 14% Black.
    We as a country have a history of finding new ways to incarcerate Black men. With the legalization of marijuana, is this the new way to unevenly apply the law.


  6. - charles in charge - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 1:37 pm:

    ==Sounds good to me.==

    Even the part about how the steep rise in incarceration falls overwhelmingly on Black people from Cook County?

    Also: Do you think all the arrests and prison sentences are doing anything to reduce gun violence? The available evidence strongly suggests that they are not. If we are serious about saving lives, there are better approaches.

    https://ilblueprintforpeace.org/


  7. - charles in charge - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 1:58 pm:

    ==Use a gun in a crime, get locked up.==

    Did you even read the post? These are people arrested for unlawful possession, not shooting or brandishing a firearm.


  8. - family matters - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 2:13 pm:

    If you own a gun unlawfully I believe you should be locked up, regardless of race.

    Of course I believe enforcement should be equitable though. Is there some proof that police are actively not locking up unlawful white gun owners in IL that I’ve missed? Not being snarky, want to be informed if I’m missing something


  9. - Demoralized - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 2:16 pm:

    ==These are people arrested for unlawful possession, not shooting or brandishing a firearm.==

    Yeah. And I’m ok with them getting locked up for it. There’s a reason some people shouldn’t have a gun.

    == Do you think all the arrests and prison sentences are doing anything to reduce gun violence==

    That’s just the usual dopey argument that because it may not fully deter why even have a law. Dumb argument.

    ==there are better approaches.==

    I’m not in favor of sparing the rod for lawbreakers, especially when we are talking about guns.


  10. - family matters - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 2:24 pm:

    I don’t think allowing people who posses guns illegally walk around the streets is smart policy


  11. - Stephanie Kollmann - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 2:34 pm:

    ==Is there some proof that police are actively not locking up unlawful white gun owners in IL that I’ve missed? ==

    What would that proof look like?

    Law enforcement in predominantly-white areas writing letters saying they don’t intend to enforce gun laws?


  12. - charles in charge - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 2:36 pm:

    ==I’m not in favor of sparing the rod for lawbreakers==

    You’re not serious about reducing gun violence, because if you were then you would care whether the policies you espouse actually work.


  13. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 2:55 pm:

    ===2) The majority—52%–of felony firearm possession convictions in Illinois involved Class X, 2, or 3 felony offenses of a person with a prior felony conviction possessing a firearm; 34% involved a Class 4 felony offense;===

    Yes, I read the report. The people in prison for merely possessing a firearm are mostly prior offenders who should not have a firearm.

    If you think we need to wait until a crime is committed with a firearm, possessed by someone ineligible to own a firearm, I disagree with you.


  14. - Annonin' - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 3:05 pm:

    Seems like the # should be higher.
    Unlawful use/possession usually means the mope with the gun has not been a good boy/girl. Possession is what happens right before the mope pulls the trigger.


  15. - RamblerFan - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 3:08 pm:

    Keep in mind that Illinois is somewhat unique in its laws around firearm possession and the findings in Loyola’s report reflects that uniqueness. A Class 4 felony firearm possession offense in Illinois carried a mandatory prison sentence until recently but that same behavior is completely legal in most states (those that have permitless carry, like Indiana, Iowa, Missouri). Most states don’t have mandatory prison sentences if you have a felony conviction and possess a gun, but Illinois does. Indiana does not even have a state law prohibiting felons from possessing firearms and in Texas if your felony conviction is 5 years in the past you can have a gun. Illinois is very unique in their laws for firearm possession and use of prison for these behaviors.


  16. - Demoralized - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 3:24 pm:

    ==You’re not serious about reducing gun violence==

    That person locked up certainly will not commit any gun violence. So, yeah, I do care. I don’t share you’re apparent desire to get rid of any consequences for breaking the law.


  17. - Candy Dogood - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 3:26 pm:

    ===Use a gun in a crime, get locked up. ===

    Mike Bost was not charged or prosecuted for his gun crime. A crime that has literally been the subject of national press coverage.

    Part of the problem is some people get to use their firearms illegally without any real consequence.


  18. - Demoralized - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 3:26 pm:

    What exactly would you suggest we do with people who have guns who shouldn’t have guns? Shake our finger in their face and say you shouldn’t do that?


  19. - charles in charge - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 3:36 pm:

    ==What exactly would you suggest we do with people who have guns who shouldn’t have guns? Shake our finger in their face and say you shouldn’t do that?==

    I posted a link to an entire report about alternative approaches up thread. Here it is again:

    https://ilblueprintforpeace.org/


  20. - charles in charge - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 3:44 pm:

    ==That person locked up certainly will not commit any gun violence.==

    If you bothered to read the Loyola report then you’d understand that most of the people being incarcerated for unlawful gun possession under current policies and practices have not committed any violence before their incarceration and won’t commit any gun violence after their release. But please don’t let those facts stand in the way of you completely vibes-based argument.


  21. - Just a Random Guy - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 4:08 pm:

    Charles, respectfully it looks to me like the blue print for peace involves higher taxes, less accountability for criminals, wishful thinking, and zero results. I’m with @Demoralized on this one.


  22. - Just a Random Guy - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 4:12 pm:

    =75% of those sent to prison are Black but our state is only about 14% Black.=

    That is a silly argument. It also says 95% are men. Using your logic, there must be some sexism involved since Illinois is only 49% male. It’s 2024. At some point we need to start talking accountability or issues like this will never get resolved.


  23. - charles in charge - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 4:20 pm:

    ==Mike Bost was not charged or prosecuted for his gun crime. A crime that has literally been the subject of national press coverage.==

    Let’s not forget Darren Bailey violating the assault weapons ban on YouTube and facing zero consequences!


  24. - Demoralized - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 5:14 pm:

    ==vibes-based argument==

    My argument is based on the law. Period. Forgive me for not being an apologist for those breaking the law. As I stated, there are reasons certain individuals should not have guns. I support arresting them. Your “feel good” attitude of tolerating breaking the law might work for you but it doesn’t work for me. Engage in whatever other strategies you want, but you can do it in conjunction with arresting people who violate the law.


  25. - charles in charge - Thursday, Jun 13, 24 @ 6:37 pm:

    @Demoralized:

    Yeah, I’m interested in achieving positive outcomes like actually reducing gun violence, as opposed to fetishizing “the law” even when it fails to deliver said outcomes.

    News flash: We have plenty of bad laws on the books. The legislature changes laws all the time. Authorities prioritize enforcement of different laws over others every single day. Acting like “the law” is some sacrosanct untouchable thing as a matter of principle, even if it’s not doing what it’s supposed to, is a laughably simplistic and naive position to take. But you do you.


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