Since some like to see it in writing here is proof straight from the horses mouth about my above post.
By David Mendell
Chicago Tribune staff reporter
February 20, 2004
This story contains corrected material, published Feb. 21, 2004.
Leading Democrats seeking their party's nomination to the U.S. Senate generally agree that laws governing capital punishment, drugs and guns should be overhauled, although they differ about how that should be accomplished and the role of the federal government in that process.
Responding to a Tribune questionnaire, former securities trader Blair Hull was the only Democrat who said that the death penalty should be abolished altogether.
"I am opposed to the death penalty based on the Illinois experience, which highlights racial and prosecutorial biases," Hull said.
Three candidates--state Sen. Barack Obama, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas and former Chicago school board chief Gery Chico--said they favor the death penalty for only the most heinous of murders, such as serial killing. But Obama qualified his stance, saying that his support eroded further when looking at how the death penalty "is currently administered in this country."
Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, meanwhile, said he endorsed the death penalty in the "most egregious cases," but he did not specify what those were.
Hynes and Pappas were the only candidates who did not support a federal moratorium on capital punishment.
"There is no evidence that the death penalty has been applied in a discriminatory way by the federal courts, nor is there evidence that federal trials have wrongfully convicted individuals and then sentenced them to death," Hynes said.
Obama noted that he sponsored successful death-penalty-reform legislation as a lawmaker in Springfield. That legislation, among other things, required the videotaping of homicide interrogations, and he promised to advocate for similar reforms on a national scale.
All of the candidates endorsed stricter gun-control measures, but each said tougher enforcement of existing gun-control laws should be a priority over the introduction of new laws.
Each candidate supported closing loopholes that allow gun shows to sell weapons to unauthorized buyers. Each also advocated the renewal of a federal ban on the sale of assault weapons, which expires in September.
Obama, however, called for a host of new gun-control measures: strengthening the assault-weapons ban to include high-capacity clips made prior to 1994; holding parents criminally responsible for children who injure someone with a gun found in the home; placing trigger locks on all guns; and allowing gun buyers to purchase only one weapon per month.
Hynes advocated increasing penalties for crimes committed with a gun, and Hull would increase funding to update technology that provides instant background checks on gun buyers.
All of the candidates, except Hynes, said they opposed allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. Hynes and Chico said states, not the federal government, should regulate the matter.
"I consider this an issue for the states to decide, not the federal government," Chico said.
Obama disagreed. He backed federal legislation that would ban citizens from carrying weapons, except for law enforcement. He cited Texas as an example of a place where a law allowing people to carry weapons has "malfunctioned" because hundreds of people granted licenses had prior convictions.
"National legislation will prevent other states' flawed concealed-weapons laws from threatening the safety of Illinois residents," Obama said.
On the drug war, several of the candidates said more emphasis should be placed on rehabilitating drug users.
When asked to name what federal law should be abolished, all of the candidates, except for Hull, said mandatory sentencing laws should be overturned to give judges more discretion and provide more equitable treatment for minorities.
"It's a dark cloud hanging over our society," Pappas said of racial disparities in criminal sentencing (this sentence as published has been corrected in this text).
Hull said the USA Patriot Act is the federal law that he would abolish, although he supports some elements of the anti-terrorism measure.
The candidates are vying to replace incumbent Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, who is not seeking re-election.
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