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Harsher Penalties for Crimes Involving a Gun

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Kind of Blued, Nov 11, 2008.

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  1. Kind of Blued

    Kind of Blued Member

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    There are a lot of smart folks around here, and I think this could be an interesting topic. I'm curious how you all, as law-abiding gun owners who intend to remain as such, feel about legislation which calls for harsher penalties for criminals who use a gun in the commission of a crime.

    Does it do us more good or more harm for legislature to treat the gun uniquely? Please mention your problems with the "other side's" perceived benefits.
     
  2. jaholder1971

    jaholder1971 Member

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    I don't have problem with it.

    The choice to abuse your RKBA by using a firearm in the commission of a crime affects every gun owner in the long run and should be punished accordingly.
     
  3. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

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    Depends on the crime.

    If the "crime" is not having an unloaded pistol in the right kind of locked case on the way to the range, then no way.

    If the crime is bank robbery, sure. Of course it's hard to imagine robbing a bank without some deadly weapon or other, so it's moot. If the crime is, say, forcible rape, then I don't think it should make any difference. Rape should be punished equally, and very harshly, and someone large enough to forcibly rape someone without a weapon shouldn't get off more easily than a little guy who uses a gun.

    Ultimately, I think that these laws are a symptom of a greater problem: lack of consistency in criminal prosecution. If the public perception were that people who commit heinous crimes would be locked up, there would be little call for these specific laws.
     
  4. jfh

    jfh Member

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    We don't need any more laws for firearms, and probably not any harsher penalties.

    In fact, we need less--just more effective enforcement.

    Jim H.
     
  5. Kind of Blued

    Kind of Blued Member

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    Could you clarify? How do you suggest we "catch" all illegal gun owners/users?

    We could get really effective if we used portable scanners to detect concealed guns. We could also have government agents search felons' homes unannounced for guns.

    What is the most effective form of law enforcement which only affects criminals and remains Constitutional? (a.k.a. "The gazillion dollar question" :))
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2008
  6. cassandrasdaddy

    cassandrasdaddy Member

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    operation exile gets results
     
  7. divemedic

    divemedic Member

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    I think that laws against mere ownership of things are the largest reason why our prisons are full. I put gun laws in the same category with laws against hate crimes.

    Should it matter if I had a gun when I raped your sister?
    Should it matter if I had a gun when I burglarized your house?
    Should it matter if I bludgeoned your brother to death with a bat, instead of shooting him? Should it matter if I killed him because he was gay, instead of killing him because he wore a blue hat?
    Rape is rape. Burglary is burglary. Murder is murder. The thought or tool that enabled the crime is not the problem. The crime is the problem. A crime that is treated differently because of the presence of a gun or an unpopular opinion allows society to blame something (guns, drugs, racism, homophobia, whatever) other than the root of the problem: the criminal.
     
  8. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    Florida passed a law which added three years of prison time to crimes where firearms were involved. I dunno, maybe 20 or 25 years back? Anyhow, it seemed to work for a while, somewhat, but the world is full of folks who don't pay attention.

    I don't have any particular objection to an add-on. Whatever happens to folks who offer gratuitous violence is fine by me.
     
  9. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

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    I got into this with a friend of mine who is gay a while ago. I was saying, I don't think there should be any distinction for crimes committed against any specific group. If the penalties need to be harsher, then they need to be harsher across the board, certain groups don't deserve status.

    There are a couple of elements that will come into play, regardless of the letter of the law. For example, by statute, a person may be just as guilty of armed robbery if he TELLS the victim he has a gun when he really doesn't, but when he really DOES have a gun and does the same thing, his INTENT may be much more clear, since the guy who only says he had a gun can't shoot anyone.

    A lot of this may come down to state-by-state definitions of whether or not a crime is aggravated when the criminal used a weapon, as opposed to being unarmed.
     
  10. CypherNinja

    CypherNinja Member

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    +1 to divemedic.

    I'd chime in with my thoughts, but he already said everything I could.
     
  11. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator

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    I have no problem with harsher penalties for crimes committed with guns. There's a long history of treating crimes committed with certain weapons more harshly. See, Cockrum v. State, 24 Texas 394 (1859) (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/usr/wbardwel/public/nfalist/cockrum_v_state.txt ) upholding a Texas law that treated criminal homicide with a Bowie knife or dagger more harshly than criminal homicide committed with other weapons.
     
  12. raz-0

    raz-0 Member

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    I'm all for the spirit of the law. Namely punishing violent felons more harshly.

    However, I'm against the concept given the realities of the jsutice system we have. Most of the time it is used as something to be pela bargained away to get someone who should be punished to the fullest extent behind bars. The other half of the time, it is used to juice up charges against someone who is being railroaded more severely than they should to turn a minor transgression into a real felony.

    Neither case does the public any sort of justice.
     
  13. Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow

    Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow member

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    Far, far more good than harm, *PROVIDED THAT* they are properly and fairly administered.

    "Enhanced sentencing laws" should be fully and wholly supported by all gun owners, because it cracks down on the ACTIONS of the individuals, and not the guns themselves. There must be severe penalties for improper use of firearms in order for us to effectively maintain full freedom of ownership (well not full freedom but full as to semi auto guns).

    The devil is in the details. (A) the laws need to be worded so as to require that the GUN BE USED IN FURTHERANCE OF THE CRIME, and (B) the police and prosecutors must not ever charge the enhanced portion of the offense, even if the offender is carrying a gun at the time of the offense, UNLESS THE OFFENDER IS USING THE GUN IN FURTHERANCE OF THE CRIME.

    It makes no sense to tack on 15 years to the sentence for the "walking and chewing bubble gun at the same time" crime just because one happens to be carrying a gun (exercising a right) at the time of the dreaded walking & chewing offense. It makes perfect sense to tack on 15 years to the sentence for robbery, when a gun is pulled and used as an implement to invoke the fear which makes the robbery a robbery (i.e. in furtherance of the crime), over and above the normal sentence for mere robbery without use of a firearm. If a robber leaves his CCW gun in his holster, concealed (in this far-fetched example), and uses mere threat of his fists or strong-arm tactics to perform the robbery, he should get no more or less of a sentence than any other non-gun-wielding robber. But he pulls that gun out, and we need to lock him up and throw away the key.

    In a similar vein, we should all support very tough civil liability against gun owners who negligently (and criminal penalties when done in a grossly negligent way) allow children, criminals, and the incompetent to gain access to their firearms.
     
  14. Zoogster

    Zoogster Member

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    I agree with divemedic.

    I am against penalties any harsher for guns than knives and other weapons, and really think the crime itself should have the appropriate sentence, the tool should be irrelevant.

    I think many firearm owners see themselves as law abiding citizens that will never be wrongly subject to such laws, and support them under the false illusion it will protect thier own rights.
    How ironic it would be if having thier guns itself became a gun crime under a future law.

    There is crime, not gun crime. Not knife crime. Not car crime.

    If you defend yourself in a public setting, and the circumstances are questionable to outsiders, should you be facing 20 charges and 50 years even if you never fired a shot?

    Mexico has some of the harshest gun laws. Yet Mexico has full scale armed conflicts on a regular basis with people armed with guns. That anyone caught breaking multiple gun laws can be locked up for much of thier life I think just helps motivate them to fight to the death rather than be caught.

    The charges and time need to reflect the crime itself and be proportional to the severity of the acts. Laws than mandate stacking multiple charges remove some of the deterent factor the law is meant to provide.
    For example I am amazed when I see a case on TV where some individual is given enough years for several life sentences for crimes where nobody was killed. They could have faced less or similar time for murdering them.
    I have seen kidnapping or sex crimes prosecuted like that. I mean if a member of my family was kidnapped by some sick individual I would want there to be more incentive to let them go alive than to murder them. Yet if they face the same type of sentence for murder as the kidnapping or sex crime, they may be even more likely to kill them and get rid of the witness.

    Extreme gun laws can have a similar effect. Should the thug selling drugs on some corner know he is facing a similar sentence for getting into a firefight with an officer as for getting caught with the gun if he can't get away?

    Extreme stacked and mandatory sentences create even more desperate criminals.
    If the bank robber is facing 20 years for the bank robbery, 10 for one gun charge, 5 for another gun charge, an additional year for every round in the firearm, and others, he is already facing over a life sentence for being caught. He may as well shoot it out if faced with that decision, because his life is over if caught anyways.
    I don't agree with that, I think they should have more incentive to give up and do his time.


    Nevermind when mandatory sentences effect some non-predatory individual, which are always the worst outcomes.
    Some normaly law abiding individual that happens to not do everything by the book, or a jury does not see things the way they did.
    Should they face 20 years because they pulled a gun on someone believing themselves in danger, but the jury decides it was aggravated assault rather than self defense.
    Say a woman is walking to her door, in a dark alley, parking lot etc. If a man quickly approaches and she pulls a gun, he showned no weapons and made no verbal threats then technicaly he was assaulted. He could have just as likely been going to ask her something as something more sinister.
    She may or may not have actualy stopped a crime, but she could be prosecuted just for pulling the weapon out, which is itself an assault if that is not deemed self defense.
    That is a violent crime with a deadly weapon. How many mandatory stacked charges should she face in addition?
    Just the aggravated assault charge if any. Yet mandatory sentence enhancements would tie the judge's hands and require they give her many more years, and that she not be eligable for parole for a long time.

    Pull a gun on a thug, and its not deemed self defense by people that were not there? You better hope you do not face multiple enhancements and mandatory sentencing because a bunch of naive people passed such laws.
     
  15. DMF

    DMF Member

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    Well the feds already have a statute that covers OPs question. 18USC924(c) creates mandatory sentences for the possession (5 year min), brandishing (7 years min), or discharge (10 years min) of a firearm in furtherance of a federal crime of violence or drug trafficking crime. There are additional penalities if an NFA firearm is used. That is an additional charge, so the underlying crime such as a Hobbs Act, or Carjacking, would be charged, and the sentence for the 924(c) will usually run consecutive to the sentence for the underlying charge.
     
  16. Sinixstar

    Sinixstar member

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    I'm actually kind of happy somebody brought that up.
    In terms of getting guns out of the hands of criminals - it's a question of supply chain.
    I think we can all agree that too many laws are placed on law-abiding enthusiasts who are following the letter of the law in good faith.
    I think there's too much effort to put the responsibility of ALL gun sales on legit owners, and not enough to crack down on things like straw sales, "theft", and broken supply chain.
    I'm not an expert on the supply-chain regulations within the industry, but simple logic would tell me that there must be a breakdown somewhere. If store owners are following the law, we're following the law - how are guns with no serial ending up in the trunk of a car on the bad side of town?
    Is it straw sales? Identify theft? Illegal smuggling from another country? (Mexico, Canada, or through our ports?)
    We must recognize that there is an "alternative" supply chain at work, and make an honest and substantial attempt to identify and disrupt that supply chain.
    Are guns tracked and reported at transfer from each party throughout the supply chain? If so, are the proper agencies doing enough to ensure that nothing "fell off the truck"? Are those agencies potentially overwhelmed by volume? Do they have the tools, technology and resources they need to properly analyze the data, and identify potential weak links?
    I think these are all questions we need to ask very vocally. I certainly haven't seen a tremendous amount of data on the subject. Given the new administration's promise to "go through every agency of government, and make it work better..." I think this is a perfect opportunity to raise the issue of resources at agencies such as the ATF.

    Obviously, I am of the opinion that the ATF is simply not capable in it's current state to handle the volume of data it receives effectively. I think there's a good chance the data has a lot to say about where these guns are coming from - just no one over there has really nailed down a way to get to that data.
    I think if we can make a case like that, and find a way of proving it to be true - it validates the arguments that we've been making for a long time. We don't need more legislation on legal gun owners, we need more enforcement of the laws that already exist.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2008
  17. Zoogster

    Zoogster Member

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    Yes giving the ATF a larger budget is the best way to help gun rights. (sarcasm) :rolleyes:

    The ATF with a larger budget will be pestering more legitimate businesses, and shutting them down for spelling errors on paperwork.
    More prosecutions for minor and accidental violations for a great number of things.
    More stings of people purchasing a shotgun with a 17 3/4" inch barrel from an informant.

    No thanks. Janet Reno let them do as they wanted and we had memorable incidents like Ruby Ridge and Waco.

    Agencies become self serving. They find reasons to justify thier existance and increase thier budget. It is the nature of government. People's jobs and retirement become dependent on employment with said agency.
    No government agency will ever willingly shrink itself, and will always need a bigger budget according to them.
    They will even use scare tactics if necessary, and not fund things important to the public (rather than diverting funds from less important things) just to get more funding.
    The Los Angeles police for example recently did not fund the processing of rape kits. They could have just as easily cut some officers, or reduced funding for another program to pay for the processing. However telling the public they need more funding for those officers would not be as effective. Telling the public many rapists are going free because they don't have enough money to fund the processing of those kits is simply more effective.
    So the programs the public will most quickly support and increase funding for are often the first to be neglected, to use as leverage in scare tactics to receive increased funding.

    Fire departments, police departments, and many other state and federal agencies of government often do the same thing. When faced with a budget they do not like they reduce funding to something they know the public will increase thier funding (and hence taxes) to support, and use the scare tactic to get what they want: more overall funds.
    Government will never ever shrink on its own.
    The more government you have, the more taxes they require and the larger the burden on society.
    Government does not create wealth, they simply use wealth generated by society. Government employees also vote in blocks, for themselves, in favor of raises, propositions, etc that benefit themselves and thier unions.
    So they need to be limited to the absolute minimum necessary or they get out of control.

    Law enforcement and intelligence positions (like electronic spying) for government is one of the fastest growing job markets. Far faster than the rate of population growth. We are headed towards a very authoritarian situation.
    We are following the UK roadmap.
    I do not support increased funding to speed us down that path.
     
  18. Sinixstar

    Sinixstar member

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    I'm not saying a bigger budget at all - i don't think i mentioned budgetary matters at all.
    I'm saying - are they actually using what they already have? Are they doing the job they're supposed to be doing - or are they just coasting through?
    If the procedures are in place, the data is there, and it's simply a matter of no-one acting on it - I don't think it requires a bigger budget, just a simple "do your damn job or find another one".
    It's a matter of re-enforcing our position that new laws are not needed, but rather existing laws should be enforced. That should be enough to make some pretty big steps towards solving some problems.
     
  19. Zoogster

    Zoogster Member

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    Criminals have guns because they choose to aquire them. Criminals have more access to guns because law abiding citizens have guns to steal.
    If law abiding citizens had fewer firearms, and more restrictions then criminals would have less, but they would still have them.

    Most firearms possessed and used by criminals were stolen from legal owners, LEO, or purchased from criminals that stole or traded(often drugs) for them. Not purchased illegaly from a legit source, or lost by a legit source.

    So the source will exist as long as legal owners, both regular citizens and others exist. Citizens can take measures to limit theft, but that can only go so far as firearms locked up too securely become worthless for sudden self defense.
    Requirements that mandate certain types of storage have in the past rarely stopped the media publicity of "gun crime" that still happens but they do prevent many gun owners from using those guns suddenly in self defense.

    So the problem is not a lack of laws. The situation is that criminals exist, and firearms exist. That we are a very diverse nation that allows many freedoms, including many destructive sub cultures who have the freedom of speech.
    The very source of many of our problems are therefore our greatest strength as a nation.
    People are actualy free to speak and express themselves, own weapons etc.
    In much of the world freedom fo speech or expression is limited or illegal. Talking about history for example is not even legal in Germany.
    Various "hate crime" laws prevent people from discussing various things the population has decided are forbidden topics in many other nations.
    Yet in America people have the freedom of speech to discuss anything they wish, publish books, make songs movies etc about anything.
    That means many great things, but it also means some glamorize criminals, thugs, negative lifestyles, and increase the number of people that become criminals, and the acceptability of such values.

    So as long as America is a free nation, the criminals will exist, and the guns will exist. Personaly I am not looking forward to the day America solves either of those problems by removing the rights that make America what it is.
     
  20. LKB3rd

    LKB3rd Member

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    I think it is a dangerous precedent for law abiding gun owners who are one (more) silly law away from committing a "gun crime" if our wonderful elected representatives decide our guns are scary (because they rob us, and take away our rights as their normal operating procedure-perhaps it is a justified fear), or need to be locked in a certain way, or stamped, or carried just so.
     
  21. Sinixstar

    Sinixstar member

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    Where's the data to back that up though? In all my research, i've yet to find a definitive study that puts that out there.

    What I have seen, is news reports of weapons rings using straw sales. One in specific stands out from when I was living back east. Group of guys on Staten Island enlisted the help of a guy from PA. Guy from PA regularly went to the same shop in PA, and another shop in GA, where he repeatedly bought glocks 10,15, 20 at a time on a regular basis. Brought 'em back to Staten Island, unloaded 'em - and reported them "stolen".

    So - I suppose in a situation like that - yea, illegal sales stem from "stolen" guns.

    How many times does one have to lose a batch of 10+ handguns at a time before it raises a red flag? How many times does a customer from out of state come into your store buying large quantities on a regular basis, before an eyebrow gets raised?
    The only reason why they figured out what was going on, is they busted somebody who turned informant.

    I'm all for honest people choosing to defend themselves - but you cannot tell me that somebody doing something like that should be allowed to continue to operate an illegal business.
     
  22. Ala Dan

    Ala Dan Member in memoriam

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    I agree, it depends largely on the crime committed. In my guesstimation,
    Class A felony convictions that can carry a death sentence; IMHO would
    qualify for additional time where a youthful offender status was granted.

    Example, if an 18 year old raped, robbed, and murdered someone and is
    elidgible for the death penalty; but a bleeding heart jury recommends a
    lesser sentence, then certainly an additional 25 to 40 years would seem
    reasonable~! ;)

    * FootNote- any older would certainly qualify as a captial offense, and
    would result in a death sentence; or if mitigating circumstances were
    present, then LWOP would be in order.

    As another responder pointed out, I don't think that "an automatic penalty
    increase" would be in order for the person carrying a licensed, unloaded
    handgun to the range in an unlocked or improper case. :eek: :barf:
     
  23. JImbothefiveth

    JImbothefiveth Member

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    +1, it should depend on the crime.
     
  24. TAB

    TAB Member

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    I don't think it works, but I don't have a prob with it.
     
  25. Kind of Blued

    Kind of Blued Member

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    Wow. I was very pleased to find so many thoughtful replies. Thanks fellas.

    This all makes me wonder: Why do we (or legislators) expect that harsher penalties make a difference in a world of dumb criminals? What percentage of criminals that commit a premeditated crime know the specific implications beforehand? They certainly aren't legally-saavy, or they wouldn't be commiting crimes in the first place. Right?
     
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