By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
Gun proponents in Illinois say the case of a recent Black college student who was arrested in Chicago is the reason why there needs to be a national gun law. Jamaal Jackson was arrested last month in the Grand Crossing community after he and the mother of his child got involved in a loud verbal argument and police were called. When police entered the private residence they searched Jackson and found a gun, which he legally bought and can have in Alabama. But because he took the gun from his vehicle and into a private home earlier that day, he needs a Firearm Owners Identification Card from Illinois to remove it from the vehicle, according to Illinois law. But he is ineligible to get a FOID card because he is not an Illinois resident, which puts citizens from another state in a trick bag when they visit Illinois and want to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.
Jackson, who was born and raised in Chicago, lives in Selma, Alabama where he is a junior business administration major at Selma University. He has been charged with a Class 4 felony of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, something his father fears can ruin his life. Jael Alexander is the mother of Jackson’s children. She along with her mother Syllathea Alexander says they never called police to their home when the couple got into an argument. An uncle who was in the residence did. But both Alexanders tell the Crusader Jackson never threatened them in any way and they knew he had the gun.
“He’s come to my house before with the gun because he keeps it for protection. The only thing I ever ask him is to keep it somewhere safe so the kids don’t get a hold of it,” said Syllathea. “I think it is a shame they are trying to ruin his life over this. He and my daughter got into a heated argument that’s all. Nobody was ever in any danger. They are two young adults trying to figure out their way through life. He’s not a criminal.”
Jackson has a previous conviction for misdemeanor marijuana possession of which he served two years of supervision. His father Terrance Jackson, along with the Alexanders say he is a good person who should not be subjected to a bad law. Jackson spent nearly three weeks in Cook County Jail as friends and family raised his bond of $50,000.
Rick Pere, an Illinois concealed carry permit instructor says the law in Illinois needs “a lot of work.” Pere and others are advocating for a national law passed by Congress so legal gun owners like Jackson do not get caught up in situations where they are not doing anything threatening, but are unknowingly violating a state law.
“In Illinois you can travel through the state with the gun in your car but it must be either disassembled or inside of a locked case. It cannot be readily accessible, which defeats the whole point of keeping a gun for protection,” Pere said. “If you take it into a residence you must have a valid FOID card. But if you’re from another state you are not eligible for a FOID card, so people end up getting screwed. It’s one of many areas of this state’s gun laws that I don’t like. There is an anti-gun culture here, especially in Chicago, even for legal gun owners.”
The Alexanders say they told both the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office they did not want to press any charges against Jackson, even though the officers at the scene kept pressuring them to do so. But that did not dissuade prosecutors for taking the case to a grand jury to get an indictment.
Jael told the Crusader she and Jackson were arguing loudly but that not only did he never threaten her or anyone else, but that Jackson notified the officers he had the gun. She said four officers entered the residence unannounced through an unlocked screen door. They immediately went to Jackson and began searching him. Once they found the gun, they placed him in handcuffs and led him away. She said locking up the father of her child is doing nothing to stop crime in Chicago because Jackson is not a problem.
“I didn’t feel threatened by him having a gun and my mother didn’t either,” Jael said. “He has never hit me or threatened me ever and I tried to make that clear enough to the police so they wouldn’t take him, but it seemed like they had their mind made up when they came in.”
Ms. Alexander said she has given permission for Jackson to bring the gun in her residence, which many people think is enough to make it legal, because when reading the law that is one of the stipulations required for a person to have a gun in another person’s home. But Pere said that only applies to Illinois residents in reality because they are the only ones who can have a FOID card.
“If you read the law itself it can be quite confusing,” Pere said.
Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon is defined as knowingly carrying on your person a weapon without a valid FOID or concealed carry permit from Illinois. But it also says a person may have a weapon in the home of another person with that person’s permission. However the gun must be kept in a case, unloaded, and disassembled or in a place that is not easily accessible. It is not sure if Jackson was aware he was breaking the law, but Illinois justices do not use negligence of the law as an excuse. He was not able to make any specific statements about the case to the Crusader because the case is still pending. However, after a hearing on his case April 19th, he said he hopes his case is tossed out and that Illinois lawmakers make several changes in the state’s gun laws to make it clearer for everyone.
Pere agreed and added that many cases like Jackson’s get pleaded down to a misdemeanor before they ever get to trial. But he believes many should be outright dismissed.
Jackson’s next court appearance is on April 24th at 9 a.m. at the criminal Court House at 26th and California. In the meantime he has missed nearly a month of college courses in Alabama as he cannot leave the state until his case is resolved. He is also unable to work. He is staying with his grandmother while out on bond who lives in Chicago.
He is currently seeking council for his case, but the cheapest attorney he could find requires a $7,500 retainer.
The Crusader will continue to follow this case as it develops.