Illinois Justice Project

Gun Violence - Q1 - Illinois Gubernatorial Candidates Criminal Justice Questionnaire

Illinois Gubernatorial Candidates Criminal Justice Questionnaire



I. Gun Violence

Gun violence in urban areas of the state continues to reach crisis levels. Legislative debates about increasing prison sentences for gun crimes have drawn passionate reaction on both sides of the issue. Even supporters of longer sentences have acknowledged that to stop gun violence, Illinois must do more than increase prison time for repeat offenses. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has said repeatedly that we cannot arrest our way out of this gun violence problem, and Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx has stated that while Illinois laws impose some of the most severe penalties to those convicted of gun crimes, the state has not enacted major legislation targeting the flow of illegal guns into victimized communities.

What specific actions would you take as Governor to help address gun violence? What should Illinois do to crack down on the flow of illegal guns into our neighborhoods? What will you do as Governor to improve police effectiveness, help support interventions of individuals at risk to commit and/or be victims of violence and improve community renewal efforts?


J.B. Pritzker Candidate Answer: 

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Gun violence is a public health epidemic. It kills people, destroys families, and rips apart our communities. Recognizing violence as a health epidemic and building safer communities must be at the center of any plan to reduce gun violence. Like all epidemic diseases, the treatment must include interruption, risk reduction, and a change in community norms so that everyone can feel safe in their own communities.
There is no single cause for this epidemic and there is no single solution. Access to guns and where they come from is one factor. Over half of guns recovered by the Chicago Police Department can be traced to a state outside of Illinois. Without better data collection and law enforcement coordination across the state, it’s hard to know the same about crime guns recovered from Peoria and East St. Louis to Cairo. That’s a problem.
Systemic disinvestment in our communities leading to adverse economic outcomes is also a key factor. Unemployment in the five Chicago communities most affected by gun violence is as high as 35%. Unemployment in other regions of the state most affected by gun violence exceeds the state average too. This has only been compounded by Bruce Rauner’s failed leadership. His 736- day budget crisis decimated funding for violence prevention, after school programs, and mental health services.
We need to fight for all communities to be healthy and safe, and we need to partner with those already doing this work. As governor, I will work with all communities affected by gun violence. Together, we will lead efforts to treat gun violence as a public health epidemic, rebuild healthy communities, increase firearm safety, and support the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
  • Treat gun violence as a public health epidemic:
    • Empower the Illinois Department of Public Health to expand their treatment of gun violence as a public health epidemic.
    • Fight for public health research on gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at the federal level.
    • Focus on prevention and intervention by investing in community programs that interrupt violence and encourage non-violent conflict resolution.
  • Rebuild healthy communities:
    • Restore funding for community organizations and human services programs. These services are critical to prevent violence, disrupt violence through after school and mental health services, treat those most at risk, and change community norms.
    • Create economic opportunity in neighborhoods most affected by gun violence by increasing access to capital and training for small businesses and expanding education opportunities for youth.
    • Partner with localities to develop conflict resolution programs for our children.
  • Increase firearm safety:
    • Implement universal background checks for every gun sale in Illinois.
    • Make a lethal violence protection order available so that families can step in to protect loved ones from harming themselves and others.
    • Ban assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and bump stocks in Illinois to help prevent mass shootings.
    • Support and sign a gun dealer licensing bill to ensure firearms are sold in a safe and responsible manner.
    • Create and lead a consortium of regional states committed to reducing gun trafficking across our state border. This will also allow law enforcement agencies to share data to help track the flow of illegal guns.
    • Create a dedicated gun crime investigation unit within state police that coordinates with local police departments to focus on illegal gun trafficking and gun crime.
    • Secure federal funding to improve background check records reporting.
    • Create an inter-agency working group to evaluate the state’s progress in providing prohibiting records to the federal NICS background check system.
    • Ensure all domestic violence and drug abuse prohibiting records are pre-validated and uploaded to the appropriate background check systems in a timely manner.
  • Support the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve:
    • Increase accountability between law enforcement and the communities they serve by making the Traffic and Pedestrian Stop Statistical Study permanent and incentivizing data collection for all stops no matter the result.
    • Implement continuing education training for law enforcement that is culturally competent, evidence-based, and a routine component of professional development. We also need to ensure this training includes instruction on de-escalation tactics, proper use of force, and community intervention.
    • Support state and local law enforcement officers by ensuring they receive proper mental health services for any trauma they may experience.