By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
Public reaction to a story the Crusader published last week surrounding the case of a college student from Alabama, arrested and charged with three felonies for having a gun in the home where he was babysitting his children, has struck a chord with gun rights activists.
On April 24, Jamaal Jackson appeared for a hearing in the case. He has been charged with three counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon—a Class 4 felony. The judge in his case scheduled his next hearing for May 16.
In the meantime, the Crusader has learned new details in the case.
Police were originally called out to the home in the 7000 block of South Michigan on March 20 for a man with a gun inside the home, allegedly threatening people. The 9-1-1 caller has been identified as the uncle of the mother of Jackson’s children. He is also the one who led officers inside the home, according to the police report.
Last week, Jael Alexander—the mother of Jackson’s children—and her mother, Syllathea, spoke exclusively with the Crusader. Both said the younger Alexander and Jackson were involved in a heated argument, but that nobody in the home was ever threatened by Jackson, nor did they ever fear they would be harmed during the argument. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did not file any domestic violence charges in the case against either party and the only person arrested was Jackson.
Both Alexanders say police wanted them to press charges against Jackson, but they refused. Jael said when officers entered the home they went straight to Jackson and searched him. She said the officers found the gun on Jackson as he was trying to tell them he had the weapon in his pocket. Syllathea said she knew Jackson had the gun, which he bought legally in Alabama, in her home. She said he keeps the gun usually on his person or in another safe place where children will not be able to get to it.
Terrence Jackson, Jamaal’s father, said his son is leery about leaving his gun in his vehicle when he visits his children because the vehicle has been broken into in the past. He said his son has never been arrested for a violent crime and he is disappointed prosecutors have charged him so aggressively. The three counts stem from Jackson not having an Illinois concealed-carry permit, not having a valid FOID card and having the gun on his person.
Those who say Illinois’ law is too restrictive, confusing and unfair believe that because Jackson is an Alabama resident there is no way he can get an Illinois FOID card, which is a requirement to get the concealed-carry permit.
Illinois also does not recognize conceal-carry permits from any other state. Alabama is an open-carry state that does not require citizens to have a particular license if they carry their weapon in a holster in the open.
Only if carrying a concealed weapon do citizens need a license in Alabama, but even that is expected to change this year. Earlier this month, the state senate in Alabama voted to do away with the state’s concealed-carry license. The bill is now in the Alabama House. If it passes, it will be signed by Governor Kay Ivey, who just took office last week. The previous governor resigned following a scandal.
Residents from other states traveling through Illinois can have their weapon as long as it is secured in a container, not immediately accessible or broken down into a state where it is not functional. The law also says a person can have a gun in a private residence with the homeowner’s permission, which Jackson had.
The complexity of Illinois’ gun laws is something gun lobbyists have been trying to change in Springfield for the past three years since Illinois’ concealed-carry law was enacted. Most states have reciprocity laws. For example, Illinois bordering states, like Indiana, recognize a CCL from any other state. Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri all recognize CCLs from every state except Vermont. Wisconsin recognizes 40 other states’ permits. Illinois is the only state that does not recognize any other state.
For years, legal gun owners around the country have complained that the laws are too confusing because each state has its own rules. Gun owners say there is a need for one national law to take away the confusion and prevent innocent people who are genuinely making an honest mistake from being prosecuted in many cases with felonies.
The National Rifle Association is holding its national convention this weekend in Atlanta. President Donald Trump will be the keynote speaker. Trump was endorsed by the NRA during the election and said during the campaign he supported the 2nd Amendment and rights of legal gun owners. Trump is in favor of less restrictive gun laws for legal gun owners, and NRA members want an end to state by state gun laws, which they claim create an uneven and conflicting patchwork of laws that confuses everyone.
The charges against Jackson also seem out of line with those who have done worse, say his supporters.
Two weeks ago, Simone Mousheh, 22, from Mount Prospect, was given what many say was “a slap-on-the-wrist sentence” after being charged last September with four felonies for buying guns with her valid FOID card, but then selling the guns to people who were not allowed to own guns.
The practice, known as “straw purchasing” is a big problem in Illinois, and police say most straw purchasers are women with valid FOID cards, who, then either sell the guns for profit or who give them to male friends who are usually in gangs.
The guns sold illegally by Mousheh were recovered by Chicago police last fall.
One recovered gun was in the possession of a juvenile on the city’s West Side. Two other guns Mousheh sold were to an individual facing a domestic violence charge, who police also say had gang ties. For her crime, Mousheh was sentenced to 15 days of community service in the Cook County Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program (boot camp), a $679 fine and 12 months probation after she plead guilty to one count of illegal transfer of firearms.
“This woman must be sentenced to prison. As a responsible firearm owner and a licensed instructor…I want these people in prison,” said Rick Pere from McHenry County.
Gun rights advocates have taken to the internet and social media since Mousheh’s sentence was announced to further make their point that courts in Illinois, especially in Cook County, fail to enforce current gun laws on the books. Many would like to see federal prosecutors take a more active role in prosecuting gun crimes in Cook County as they did in recent years in Lake County, IN.
The website, usacarry.com, has tried to make things easier for law-abiding gun owners. It has an interactive map on the website that allows users to check for free, the laws in a particular state. Many legal gun owners use it as one tool before they travel out of state.
“I check their website, but I also do other research before I get in my car and travel with my gun because I don’t want to catch a case,” said Johnny Williams from South Chicago.
“I don’t think I should have to go through all of this. Criminals don’t give a damn where they carry because they are going to break the law anyway. But the government has me jumping through hoops, and I’m not going to hurt anybody. We need one national law, period!”
The Crusader will continue to follow the Jackson case for developments.