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Gun court plan ‘not such a good idea,’ Toni Preckwinkle says

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle told mediWednesday thgun court plan she wanted have place this summer is 'maybe not

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle told media Wednesday that the gun court plan she wanted to have in place this summer is "maybe not such a good idea." | Nausheen Husain~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 3, 2013 7:09AM

The gun court plan that Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said she wanted to implement by July 1 is on its way to the grave.

Preckwinkle said she had told Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, who was pushing for the court, that a committee would “look into” the plan. The project would have created a special court to make punishment for illegal gun possession more “predictable and efficient,” according to Fritchey.

After Wednesday’s Cook County Board meeting, she told reporters that the committee discovered that it was “not such a good idea.”

“In the course of looking into it, we discovered that there was no support for it in the judiciary, no support from the state’s attorney, no support from the public defender, no support from our probation people,” Preckwinkle said. “So, when you say you’re going to look into something and you find that the critical actors are all opposed to it, you draw certain conclusions.”

Preckwinkle said the committee responsible for researching the plan, the Violence Prevention, Intervention and Reduction Advisory Committee, will meet on Aug 12 and will make a decision about the gun court.

The University of Chicago Crime Lab was among the organizations that supported the idea of a gun court. In a memo to Fritchey, the crime lab said a gun court has the potential to change gun-carrying behavior the same way drunken-driving enforcement changed drinking and driving behavior. The judge presiding over a gun court would have to consistently reinforce the message that the consequences for carrying a gun illegally are “definite and stringent,” the memo noted.

The crime lab called gun court “a promising tool for deterring illegal gun carrying and helping to reduce gun violence in Chicago.”

Other cities have operated successful gun courts. In New York City, for example, gun courts were set up in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx in 2003. In 2006, jail sentences for gun possession were one year or longer in 79 percent to 90 percent of cases, up from 45 percent to 51 percent in 2001, according to the New York Times. But the courts were closed after New York created a 3½-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for illegal gun possession. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is calling for a similar mandatory-minimum law in Illinois.

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