How Criminals Serve No Prison Time for Illegally Carrying a Gun: Concurrent Sentences

A while back, I was debating gun rights with a relative of mine.  This relative (who is a doctor, not a lawyer) opined that the Illinois law that makes it a felony to carry a concealed weapon allows criminals to be put away for longer prison terms then if they were only to be convicted of the underlying crime (e.g. robbery).  The fact is that most criminals receive concurrent, rather than consecutive, prison terms, meaning that they usually don’t spend even 1 extra day in jail for having the gun.  Allow me to explain:

Concurrent versus Consecutive prison sentences

Criminals tend to commit multiple violations of the law, and therefore receive multiple sentence when they are convicted.  For example, an armed robber (as they frequently have in Oak Park, IL) may walk up to a citizen while carrying a gun, and then demand that citizen’s money.  Doing so is at least two crimes: Unlawful Use of a Weapon (for carrying the gun) and Armed Robbery (for robbing the person).  They may also have a stolen gun, not have a FOID card, or be a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, all of which are additional felony charges.   If the criminal were to be caught, they would be charged with at least two offenses.  Since criminals tend to commit multiple crimes before being caught, it is not unusual for a person charged with one robbery to also be charged with several others.  The end result is that the convicted criminal receives multiple prison sentences for his or her multiple crimes.

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At first, it would seem that having multiple sentences imposed upon the criminal would put them in prison for longer than if they had just one sentence imposed upon them.  However this generally not the case.  Instead, sentences for crimes are usually imposed concurrently, meaning that the criminal serves all the sentences at once, not one after the other.  This means that the criminal only stays in jail as long as the longest single prison sentence, not as long as all the separate sentences combined.

An example of Concurrent sentences failing to punish an armed robber

Sticking with the armed robbery example from above, the criminal who is convicted of Unlawful Use of a Weapon and Armed Robbery will be sentenced for two felonies.  The Unlawful use of a Weapon charge, which comes from the carrying of the gun, is a Class 4 Felony in Illinois, and carries a sentence of 1 – 3 years in prison.  The  Armed Robbery charge, which comes from robbing the victim, is a Class X Felony in Illinois, and carries a sentence of 6 – 30 years in prison.  Serving these sentences concurrently, the armed robber would face only between 6 and 30 years in prison, and not one extra day for the Unlawful Use of a Weapon charge.  In short, the criminal receives no actual jail time for carrying a gun.

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The injustice

As discussed above, a criminal who uses a gun to commit a crime often won’t spend a single day in jail for the carrying of that gun.  However an otherwise law abiding citizen who illegally carries a gun and uses it for self defense against that attacking criminal would face time in jail for carrying that self defense gun.  In each of the two Oak Park, IL self defense shootings I’ve discussed recently, where citizens defended themselves against a racist attacker and an armed robber, the citizen would face felony charges if caught for having the gun that they used to save their lives.  This is terribly unjust.  It is bad enough that Illinois’ lack of concealed carry means that only criminals are armed – it is even worse that if a citizen were to break the law to defend themselves, they would end up spending time in jail for carrying their gun, while the attacking criminal serves not one day in jail for carrying a gun.  Illinois really needs concealed carry, and to keep criminals in jail so that they can’t harm future victims.

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