Rep. Tony McCombie
Local activist Bob Dittmar is saluting state Rep. Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) for being among the lawmakers in Springfield leading the charge in getting House Bill 38 across the finish line.
“Typically when you have a bill that has that many lawmakers to sign on it’s an indication of how much appeal it has among people and I we all believe we should be able to feel safe in church,” Dittmar said of the so-called “church crimes” bill that stiffens the penalties to provide an aggravating factor at the time of sentencing for first degree murder in instances "where the victim was a member of a congregation engaged in prayer or other religious activities at a church, synagogue, mosque, or other building, structure, or place used for religious worship” at the time of the commission of the crime.
“I would hope that legislation like this would have support from both sides of the aisle,” Dittmar added. “If you can’t feel safe in a church, where can you be safe?”
Signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in early August, HB 38 also classifies such crimes as aggravated battery as a Class 1 felony in cases where great bodily or permanent disability are caused. Among GOP lawmakers joining McCombie in support of the measure were Reps. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia), Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield), Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur), Amy Grant (R-Wheaton) and Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva).
According to Al.com, over the last two decades at least 91 victims have been killed in church shootings, including at least 28 people over the last four years.
In 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, a self-proclaimed white supremacist stormed the Emanuel AME Church and killed nine black parishioners and in 2017 a gunmen killed 26 during an early-morning worship service at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.