Almost Right

I am sympathetic to this article, which points out the problem in Philadelphia has to do with abysmal enforcement gun laws against actual criminals.  This is true.  The cop killers in Philadelphia were let go without even being charged with gun crimes they were arrested for.

Despite what we endlessly hear – that guns have one purpose, to kill people – Judge Shreeves-Johns didn’t see it that way. She threw out the most serious charges, leaving Floyd with a mess of misdemeanors, but only a single second-degree felony count for gun possession.

Here’s a felon who shouldn’t have a gun in his hand under any circumstances, he’s on a public street, he fires three times, and gets 11 1/2 to 23 months, which is more like a time-out than a serious sentence. The judge also ordered anger-management treatment and drug and alcohol counseling for Floyd.

Is that enough?

No, it’s not.  I agree with this.  But here’s where you go to far:

That’s a mistake. If we’re serious about guns, that law must be expanded. If you use or carry a gun when committing a crime – shoplifting bras, writing graffiti, tipping over cows – you must get five years before the other offenses are added on.

No, sorry, I should not get five years because I was speeding while lawfully carrying a firearm.  People like Stu Bykofsky get what the real problem is, but they also need to get that there are lawful ways people can carry guns in this Commonwealth for the legitimate reason of self-defense.  I have no problem with enhanced sentencing for criminals who misuse guns to further a criminal act, like robbery, selling crack on the street corner, assault, or other violent acts.  But some kid in Lancaster shouldn’t get a five year felony rap because he tipped some cows with dad’s pistol in the glove box.  Let’s not get ridiculous here.  We can solve the actual problem without getting nuts.

6 Responses to “Almost Right”

  1. Prester Scott says:

    I disagree with even this. Philosophically, it is no more heinous to murder with a gun than to murder with a knife, bomb, etc.; but there is also a practical unintended consequence. In Florida we have such mandatory minimum sentences for the use of guns in violent crime. This includes a 3-year minimum for aggravated assault. The problem is that you can get snagged by this if you’re attempting to defend yourself and you take one step over the line. Let’s say you are at your local Stop’N’Rob, and are accosted by a man with his hand stuffed suspiciously in his pocket. Let’s say you reveal your legally concealed firearm, and the guy runs off. He calls the cops on you, there’s no proof he actually had a weapon, you’re charged with agg assault/ADW, and because the jury was hostile/your lawyer was lousy/whatever else, you are convicted. The judge recognizes that you didn’t mean any harm and would like to give you probation/suspended sentence. But, whoops, thanks to this new law, you get no less than 5 years.

  2. Sebastian says:

    I understand what you mean, and I would by no means call for such enhancements, but I don’t think it would be wise for us to fight them either, because it makes gun owners look like we’re not interested in offering solutions to problems that concern people.

    Being moderately libertarian, I’m not much of a fan of law and order conservatism, but it appeals to a lot of people.

  3. Prester Scott says:

    Sorry, as a matter of principle, it is immoral to do evil (supporting a proposed law you know to be unjust) in the hope that good may result (getting good PR for your “side”). The injustice would be mitigated significantly if a self-defense clause were included, such as, “The sentence enhancement shall not apply in any case where the defendant makes a reasonable claim that he or she acted to defend himself or herself, or another innocent person, from the threat of death or great bodily harm, which claim is supported by the preponderance of evidence.” If a bill came up, I’d insist on that before supporting it.

  4. Sebastian says:

    The type of defense you mention generally exists. There’s a common law affirmative defense for self-defense. And to be clear, I don’t support mandatory minimums, what I suggested was an enhancement, meaning something like “not to exceed 5 years in state prison, except for when a firearm is used in commission of such crime that it is not to exceed 7 years.”

    But that said, principle is cheap in politics. Those who stand on it get steamrollered by those who are less scrupulous. They are, at best, guidelines in the process. It forces you to take a lot of positions you don’t like, which is why I suspect Libertarians have generally not wanted to dirty their hands in the process.

  5. Sigivald says:

    Well, in defense of what he said, speeding is an offense, not a crime (at least typically – if it’s bad enough to be a crime it’s usually “reckless driving”, I think), so it wouldn’t apply.

    (I also don’t support mandatory minimums, but that’s irrelevant to the crime/offense distinction.)

  6. Prester Scott says:

    I don’t put much stock in the value of common law in a contemporary courtroom. Statute rules. That’s why I’m glad that a strong pro-self-defense law has been codified in my state (which somewhat offsets the unintended consequence I described).

    I see your distinction between mandatory minimums and enhanced maximum, and I can stomach the latter a lot better than the former. Of course you will then still have complaints (justified or not) about bleeding-heart judges who don’t apply the enhanced maximum penalties.

    I’m not against all compromise. I just don’t gauge this particular one to be a very good bet. Do you support an enhanced penalty for gun use (under whatever circumstances) because you actually approve of it, or because you want to impress anti-gun people with how broad-minded you are? ‘Cos from what I’ve seen, they won’t be impressed or moved to reciprocate in the slightest.

    But hey, your state, your decision, I’m just some dude on the internet offering an alternate perspective.