Guns in the Illinois Justice System
We examine the extent and nature of gun crime in Illinois and the processing of gun offenses through the criminal justice system.
More than 3,500 shooting incidents occurred in Chicago in 2021. In a region familiar with gun violence, these statistics continue to shock both policymakers and the public. Demands for action have come from all quarters, including national politicians and pundits, community activists, and grieving family members.
Complicating policy discussions of gun crime is that the concern over lethal gun violence has resulted in almost all forms of unlawful behavior involving a firearm being viewed as “violent” and involving “violent” individuals. For example, many forms of illegal gun possession are legally classified as equivalent to violent crimes. Part of the logic to this classification is that someone illegally possessing a firearm is just one or two decisions or actions away from a shooting or homicide, and that illegal gun carrying is an indicator of a propensity for violence.
However, what has been lacking from policy discussions is a thorough understanding of what the characteristics are of those arrested for gun possession and other gun crimes. Similarly, the argument for “tougher laws,” such as mandatory prison sentences and longer lengths of stay in prison for those illegally possessing guns, is based on the assumption that the punishments imposed for these crimes are not severe enough.
There is a need to better understand the characteristics of those arrested for gun-crimes, how these cases move through the justice system, and what factors influence case outcomes. With this information, future discussions of policy and practice regarding illegal gun possession and the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime can have an objective and data-driven understanding of the issues as the foundation.
The goal of this project is to examine the extent and nature of gun crime in Illinois and the processing of gun offenses through the criminal justice system.
Loyola University’s Center for Criminal Justice – with support from the Joyce Foundation – is working to provide practitioners and policy makers in Illinois and the region with a more thorough, objective, and current understanding of those arrested and processed through the justice system for these crimes and current justice system responses.
The ultimate goal of project is to identify law, policy, and practice changes to prevent and address gun crime in more fair, effective, and equitable ways.
We wrote the most comprehensive, detailed analysis of the sentencing of those convicted of firearm possession offenses in Illinois to date.
We published three reports on the characteristics and trends of illegal possession of a firearm arrests in Lake County, Cook County, and Statewide
David Olson, PhD
Professor, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology