Haine increases penalties on attacks in churches

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SPRINGFIELD – After a shooting at the First Baptist Church in Maryville killed Pastor Fred Winters and injured another churchgoer, the Illinois Senate passed legislation to increase penalties on those that carry weapons into churches with an intent to harm others. State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) sponsored the measure. 

“These are sacred spaces where people go to worship and feel safe in their community,” Haine said. “People committing illegal, harmful activities here should be put in prison for a significant amount of time.”

The proposal was brought to Sen. Haine by Lt. Rich Dustman, a retired member of the Edwardsville Police Department and member at the church who was in attendance during the shooting.

“This was truly a heinous act committed by a criminal,” said Dustman. “Thanks to Senator Haine for giving law enforcement and prosecutors an additional tool to ensure these criminals are off the streets for a significant time.”

Under Haine’s proposal, when an attack happens within a church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship, an individual can be charged with aggravated assault, a Class A misdemeanor, or aggravated battery, a Class 3 felony. 

The legislation also provides that an individual can be charged with a Class 2 felony if they carry or possess a firearm, knife or other dangerous weapon with the intent to harm in a place of worship.

Haine’s legislation, Senate Bill 561, passed with a vote of 51-0. It will now head to the Illinois House of Representatives for a vote.