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Bill Signed to Increase Punishment of Gun Trafficking in Illinois

On August 23, 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law regarding the illegal trafficking of guns. Gun violence facilitated by illegally possessed and acquired firearms has long been a problem plaguing the state, especially in the city of Chicago.

GRIM STATISTICS

Chicago has a persistent violent crime problem, one which this bill is meant to make a dent in, but is by no means enough to solve entirely.

It’s been easy for black market gun traffickers to acquire the weapons they sell in Illinois despite the state’s own stance on it by taking advantage of the more lenient laws and policies of Illinois’ neighboring states.

425 people have been murdered by firearms in Chicago this year and another 2320 have been shot and wounded,” said Jim Durkin, a House Republican Leader. “Each weekend in Chicago is bloodier than the last.”

THE LAW

The bill is meant to make penalties on illegal gun trafficking strict enough to act as an effective deterrent, which legislators have complained it was not before the introduction of the bill. Rauner himself, however denied having heard about this problem from legislators when asked about it.

The law was unopposed in both chambers of the General Assembly. The signing ceremony was attended by a representative of the Illinois State police, as well as Republican legislative leaders.

“The laws of Illinois for many years have been more focused toward holding the shooter accountable but not the person who armed the shooter, and that changes today with the governor’s signature,” said Durkin. He said that the law makes gun trafficking punishable by 15 to 30 years in prison. Up until the signing in Illinois the offense could carry a year sentence, and was categorized as a much less important type of felony. Durkin elaborated, “This law targets straw purchasers – those who skirt Illinois firearm laws by buying guns in other states with the intent to resell in the illegal black markets of Illinois, later adding, “I thank the Illinois General Assembly for their bipartisan unanimous support.”

THE POLITICS

The powerful political force of the gun-rights lobby did not oppose the bill, which is likely the only reason it was allowed to pass. The lobby probably did not see the bill as a threat to its goals and manifesto, since it’s not like such a well-funded group has any need to save money.

Said Durkin: “I think the federal government needs to do something; I hope they do something.” Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno spoke to say that “[the] issue of background checks at gun shows needs to be handled federally, in my opinion.”

A DIVIDED MOVEMENT

Rauner declined to speak on the larger issue of federal policy on gun control, saying that he was “one-hundred percent focused on Illinois”. The power that states have to manage guns on their own terms is far from all-encompassing, but is relevant, as exemplified by outlier states like Texas with very atypical gun laws.

Illinois, specifically, is an area with significantly different demographics in different areas, being mostly rural but containing one of the United States’ most notable cities and its surrounding area. This makes it more difficult to move issues considered political, like anything involving firearms, forward, as the population of the state tends to be internally divided in its opinions on them.

The bill’s status and synopsis can be viewed here.

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Illinois Changing Legal Smoking Age to 21

By 2016, most people are pretty much aware of the dangers involved in cigarette smoking. Although the country might never see cigarettes actually become illegal, many people are fighting to end the sale of tobacco products. One way that the state of Illinois might do their part is in raising the legal age in which one could purchase and smoke cigarettes. Currently, if you are 18 or older you can purchase cigarettes throughout the state, however Senator John G. Mulroe has developed a proposal which would increase the legal age to 21.

 

Reasons for age increase

Mulroe and other health advocates spoke out about the possibility of increasing the legal smoking age. Reasons given for the change include the obvious reason that smoking is deadly, and would prevent younger adults from purchasing tobacco products. Smoking is also extremely expensive, especially in the Chicagoland area, with prices of cigarettes ranging from $8-$14. Not only is smoking expensive to the individual buying a pack every day, it is expensive for the state.  Mulroe stated that $5 billion is spent annually in Illinois to treat smoking-related illnesses, and $2 billion comes from taxpayer Medicaid funds. The final reason for increasing the age is because research shows individuals who do not smoke before 21 will likely never start smoking.

 

Smokers agree with the change

Mulroe claims that many current smokers actually believe raising the age to 21 for purchase of tobacco products is a good idea, especially since several of them wish they themselves never started smoking. Once you start, you become addicted and it is so hard to quit. Individuals who do not smoke and don’t object to others smoking haven’t really made much of a fuss regarding the issue, as it doesn’t really relate to them. Not everyone agrees that raising the age to 21 would actually be a good idea.

 

Individuals against raising the age

There are others who believe that in raising the tobacco purchase age to 21, Illinois would be restricting personal liberties of adults. If they can join the military, live on your own, and are required to pay taxes, then you should be able to purchase tobacco products at 18. This is the same argument that tends to come into play when discussing a lower age to purchase alcohol. However, many believe that if an 18 year old still wants to smoke a cigarette, even with all of the health issues it may cause, then they have the right. If Illinois changes the age to 21 for the sale of cigarettes, what will they take away next?

 

Not always right and wrong

Some people just look at the change as right or wrong, and it shouldn’t be seen that way. The proposed bill is not about taking the rights away from young adults, but rather providing them with the opportunity to never pick up the habit of smoking to begin with. Mulroe said that the bill would apply to the sale, purchase, and possession of all tobacco products. This would also include the popular e-cigarettes, which have been found to be just as dangerous a regular cigarettes.

 

We will have to wait and see if the bill is passed to see what kind of outcome would occur with an increased tobacco age.