Gun Charges in Illinois
The gun trafficking industry is alive and well in Illinois, despite the efforts of police and prosecutors to stop the flow of guns coming in across state lines. But, due to an increase in violence in Chicago in the past two years, these efforts are increasing. According to ProPublica Illinois, federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Illinois had already brought more gun charges by October, 2017, than in any other year over the last decade.
Illinois has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, going beyond federal standards. Illinois law prohibits both gun trafficking from out of state and gunrunning, the illegal transfer of at least three guns. On August 23, 2016, gun bill HB 6303 strengthened penalties for trafficking. The new gun law means harsher sentences for people who buy guns which have been illegally imported to Illinois and for people who are selling them.
However, most of those arrested still wind up being charged with illegal gun possession instead of trafficking, even if the weapons are brought in from out of state. And since there is no federal gun-trafficking statute or registry, it is local law enforcement officials who lock up thousands of gun offenders every year. Again, this is almost always for possession, even though charges for trafficking firearms carry far stiffer sentences.
If you have been charged with trafficking or any other crime involving guns in Illinois, you face dire consequences, including imprisonment, fines, and a criminal record that will follow you and negatively affect the rest of your life. The experienced Illinois gun crimes defense attorneys at Wolfe and Stec know and understand the judges, the courts and the system and can help you with any gun crime charges. We offer a free consultation, so contact us at 630-305-0222 to discuss your individual situation.
Why Trafficking Charges are Rare
The main reason gun trafficking charges are rare is simple – guns are legal. Since there are millions of people who can and do buy guns legally, it’s easy to acquire weapons that may later be illegally sold, traded, loaned or stolen. Illinois has tough gun control and background check laws, but Americans travel freely between states, so they can travel to a location where purchasing a gun is easier.
Private sellers are required to be responsible for ensuring that they are selling firearms to someone without a criminal record, but this doesn’t stop someone with a clean background from buying a gun for a criminal, and it doesn’t impact gun trafficking by gang members. The majority of the guns seized by Chicago police were originally bought out of state, and even when authorities know a gun has changed hands unlawfully, they often can’t determine its ownership history between that first sale and the recovery.
Without a history, it is difficult to prove gun trafficking or gunrunning occurred. Even when a gun’s history is determined, trafficking cases take time and resources to investigate.
As a result, according to ProPublica, 73 percent of the gun charges in 2017 were for possession of a firearm; 17 percent for using a gun in connection with drug trafficking; 8 percent for selling guns without a license; and 2 percent for making a false statement in a gun purchase. In the past ten years, the portion of gun defendants facing possession charges has doubled.
What Are the Gun Laws In Illinois?
Gun trafficking laws are narrowly written in Illinois. For instance, only Illinois residents can be charged with trafficking here, even though a 2014 report from the Chicago mayor’s office concluded that nearly 60 percent of the guns used in Chicago are traced to neighboring states where it’s easier to buy guns.
Illinois law prohibits any person from:
- Knowingly purchasing or attempting to purchase a firearm with the intent to deliver it to a person prohibited from possessing one.
- Intentionally providing false or misleading information on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives transaction record to purchase or attempt to purchase a firearm.
- Forging or materially altering a Firearm Owner’s Identification (“FOID”) card, as well as knowingly possessing a forged or altered FOID card with intent to use it to purchase firearms and ammunition.
- Knowingly or intentionally altering, changing, removing or obliterating the importer’s or manufacturer’s serial number on any firearm or possessing such a weapon.
- Delivering a firearm while not being entitled to its possession, knowing it to have been stolen or converted.
What Are the Punishments for Gun Violations?
The new law, effective August 2016, makes it a Class 1 Felony for a person who has not been issued a FOID card to bring guns into Illinois with the intent to sell or deliver them. If the person brings in a gun with ammunition, it becomes a Class X Felony. Penalties will also be stricter for those who have previously been convicted on gun trafficking-related charges.
The new law imposes a sentence of up to 20 years for a first offense, and a subsequent conviction for trafficking brings a sentence of up to 30 years. For a Class X conviction, there is no chance of getting probation; sentencing is usually anywhere from 6 to 30 years in prison, up to $25,000 in fines, and a minimum parole of 3 years.
Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd For Help With Any Gun Violations
If you have been accused of gun trafficking or any other gun violations in Illinois, the situation is serious and you need legal assistance. Many gun or weapons offenses, especially those related to the commission of another crime while in possession of a gun, carry mandatory prison terms. Charges such as armed violence, armed robbery, aggravated vehicular hijacking, and home invasion carry increased penalties if a firearm was used.
The Illinois criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances. We know the judges and the court system and will aggressively explore every avenue for your defense.