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Illinois changing ‘unlawful use’ to ‘unlawful possession’ of gun charges

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(The Center Square) – The Illinois Legislature continues to change the definitions of things in the context of criminal charges by approving a measure Saturday changing the name of the charge for illegal possession of a firearm.

In January, state Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, filed House Bill 4500 to change various firearm possession charges to get away from being labeled unlawful use of a firearm charges. He argued in a committee earlier this year that some of those who are charged and convicted with being illegally in possession of a firearm but not using it in the commission of another crime were charged with unlawful use which carries a negative stigma.

Buckner was clear he was not intending to change the level of punishment with such a criminal conviction, just changing the title of the charge to more accurately reflect the offense.

The measure also originally provided for the changes to be made retroactive in the criminal background of those who were charged with unlawful use charges for mere illegal possession.

“This is prospective only. There will not be any obligation for law enforcement agencies to change records going back,” asked state Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis.

“That’s correct,” Buckner said Saturday during floor debate. “After some conversations and negotiations, we landed at a place where this is only prospective.”

Retroactivity was stripped from the measure with an amendment last month in the House and was passed 68-36.

In the Senate, another amendment was approved that changes the name of the offense of “persistent unlawful possession of a weapon” to “unlawful possession of a firearm by a repeat felony offender.” It passed unanimously in the Senate Wednesday.

Saturday, the House concurred on the Senate’s amendment and can now send the measure to the governor’s desk for further action.

The Illinois State Rifle Association is listed as a supporter as is the group Restore Justice.

Earlier this week, the legislature approved House Bill 4409 that would add Illinois Department of Corrections representation to the alternative punishment Adult Redeploy Illinois oversight board, but it also changes the word “offender” to “justice-impacted individuals” for those in the program. Republicans on the Senate floor said the name change could cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.