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Lawmaker says tougher laws will reduce gun violence

SPRINGFIELD -- Chicago was recently named the country's most violent city.
SPRINGFIELD -- Chicago was recently named the country's most violent city. That's why one state lawmaker wants to crack down on gun crimes statewide. WCIA-3's Ashley Michels keeps us Connected to the Capitol.

This is a sight seen all too often when Chicago is in the news. It's now the murder capitol of the country. Most are shootings.

"It's hard to look in the eyes of the victims of these crimes and the families and say, 'well, we can't do anything else,' when, in fact, we could."

Representative Mike Zalewski (D) says the only way to cut down on gun violence is to "up" the punishment.

"There's no fear of our current gun laws and what you see is a cycle of violent offenders being back on the street."

That's why Zalewski wants to increase mandatory prison sentences for repeat offenders and people who have guns illegally. Sentences would start at 3- 4- and 5-year minimums depending on the crime. Offenders would have to serve at least 85% before being released.

"We believe, if people feel like there's a real risk that they will go to jail for a longer period of time, they won't commit these crimes as much."

But, the changes would carry a big price tag for taxpayers. State prison officials say the longer sentences would add close to 4,000 inmates over the next ten years, which would run an extra $70-million a year.

Plus, the state says it would have to expand or open a new prison to house everyone. That's an extra $263 million.

Zalewski says he knows the state's finances are tight, but money shouldn't be an issue when it comes to safety.

"Cost in certain policy decisions just should not be a factor."

Representative Zalewski says he will be pushing to get these reforms passed as soon as possible. Lawmakers return to Springfield at the end of the month.
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