As we near a midterm election on November 8, a lot of anti-Second Amendment politicians have been blaming guns in general, or our Second Amendment rights in particular, for recent rises in violent-crime rates. They do this even though many of these same politicians have passed no-cash-bail policies, which let violent offenders back onto the streets as they await trial. Many of these anti-gun legislators have also blamed the police for crime, even as they’ve made it more difficult for the police to do their jobs.
Illinois has now doubled down on this insanity—while some of its politicians still blame a constitutional right for suddenly causing crime to spike.
Starting January 1, 2023, Illinois will become the first state to eliminate all cash-bail requirements for those accused of crimes. This was part of the state’s “Pretrial Fairness Act,” which was part of the omnibus “Safe-T Act” passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 2021.
Technically, this doesn’t mean those charged with crimes, including violent crimes, will automatically be released before trial. Illinois judges can still deny pre-trial releases; however, according to First Coast News, “The SAFE-T Act states that a person will only be detained ‘when it is determined that the defendant poses a specific, real and present threat to a person, or has a high likelihood of willful flight.’”
It appears that, lacking direct evidence of a “specific” threat or flight risk, the law requires that such defendants be set free until their trials, without having to post the bail or bond which traditionally has been used to help ensure that defendants will actually appear for court dates.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has maintained that the no-cash bail system will actually reduce crime. He claimed that those charged with domestic violence and sexual assault won’t be able to “buy” their way out of jail until a future court date. Other Illinois politicians who promoted no bail felt that the previous bail system disproportionally impacted defendants of color and those with minimal financial means.
Not so fast, said Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine. As he told local media, the no-cash-bail requirement only allows judges “to evaluate the public-safety risk of a defendant charged with a forcible felony that does not qualify for probation. If the felony qualifies for probation, the judge can only detain that defendant based on other factors, such as criminal history, violations of their terms of release or flight risk before trial.”
This places the burden of proof to hold someone in jail on the judge. Whether someone is a threat to a specific person is subjective; also, what if they are a danger to society?
Cash bail, Haine said, “helps prevent quick successive repeated crimes. That’s why we have cash bail. That’s the whole purpose. And this whole canard about this being a part of systemic racism, I think is based on an academic theory that has no basis in how this is actually being implemented.”
Meanwhile, the office of the Kankakee County state’s attorney has filed suit against Pritzker and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (D) to declare the Safe-T Act unconstitutional. The Kankakee lawsuit specifically cites the lack of bail in criminal pre-trial proceedings as a violation of the Illinois Constitution, among other Constitutional violations it contends are present in the SAFE-T Act. Kankakee County Sherriff Michael Downey is a co-plaintiff on the suit.
Pritzker has frequently blamed guns for the increase in violent crimes in Illinois, especially seen in the Chicago Metropolitan Area, which sees dozens of drug and gang-related shootings each and every week. Last year, for example, Pritzker signed legislation to expand background checks to all gun sales in Illinois starting in 2024, including private sales. In 2019, Pritzker also signed legislation requiring Illinois FFL’s to also have a state-issued license, to the cost of an additional $1,500 to the FFL.
The Illinois State Rifle Association, the state’s NRA-Affiliate, argued that all Pritzker was doing was attempting to shift blame to legal gun sellers for the criminal misuse of guns. As ISRA explained, “The federal government already licenses gun dealers. There is no need to add yet another layer of bureaucracy on gun dealers. The only thing this measure is going to do is make it cost more money for gun dealers to do business in Illinois, which is going to hurt the smaller dealers. The action taken today is another assault on our 2nd Amendment rights. Nothing in this bill is going to enhance public safety in Illinois.”
Apparently, various Illinois politicians are happy to infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens in the name of “public safety,” but are willing to give those charged with actual felonies the benefit of the doubt.