CA’s “Use a Gun and You’re Done” Law Under Fire
“Sentence Enhancements” Are On the Chopping Block
If the Left is so freaked out about the scourge of gun violence, why then do they want to reduce penalties for using a gun in the commission of a crime?
And, if the Left is so angst-ridden about all those brand-new legal gun owners (that’s 8 million nationally in just the past year) then why are they so hell-bent on ignoring that it’s the bad guys that don’t go retail shopping for their weapons?
If the Left is so relentless in their pearl clutching, then why do they want to hasten the return of violent criminals to our streets?
Big on hypocrisy, the hefty-lefties at the Capitol in Sacramento are intent on undoing some of the good stuff California actually has in statute – that being the 1996 “use a gun and you’re done” law that added 10, 20 or 25-years-to-life to prison sentences when the perpetrator uses a gun in the commission of the crime. Bay-area Assemblyman Alex Lee thinks it’s a good idea however, to radically reduce the sentence enhancements to 1,2, and 3 years respectively.
This is a bonehead – and dangerous move. The safety of Californians is one of GOC’s foundational goals, and while firearm ownership is a clear Constitutional right, those who use a gun in the commission of a crime should not be given a pass, but rather face a severe penalty for their actions.
We think Assemblyman Lee and his colleagues should take a look at the 2019 Bureau of Justice Statistics report on Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crimes: Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI), which found that roughly 1 in 5 (21%) of all state and federal prisoners reported that they had possessed or carried a firearm when they committed the offense for which they were serving time in prison. More than 1 in 8 (13%) of all prisoners had used a firearm by showing, pointing, or discharging it during the offense for which they were imprisoned, and fewer than 2% had obtained a firearm from a retail source. With such admissions from perpetrators of gun crimes, it bears asking why it is necessary to decrease enhancements by 90%. What’s more, in 2017 the legislature passed Senate Bill 620 (Chapter 682) which gives a judge the authority to strike and even dismiss a firearm enhancement if doing so would be “in the interest of justice.” SB 620 made 10-20-life a matter of judicial discretion rather than a mandatory minimum, which should address every concern ever raised about how “unfair” the law is.
In addition to the BJS findings, the California State Auditor recently reported that “Although the number of inmates housed in state prison has decreased in recent years, recidivism rates for inmates in California have remained stubbornly high averaging around 50 percent over the past decade (Report 2018-113 January 2019). But hey – let’s make it easier to get them back out on the street.
To undo the “use a gun and you’re done” law reveals in stark fashion just how little the Left cares about safety in our communities.
It seems to me that the law in its current form falsely implies that threatening someone with a gun is worse than threatening someone with any other deadly weapon. Rather than leading to more permissive Second Amendment rights, the law carves out guns as a special category somehow worse than any other, and unreasonably intensifies public fear of guns by its existence. I would prefer that the provision singling out firearms be replaced with language including any deadly weapon.
With regard to sentencing for violent crimes, rather than specifying a maximum sentence, after which the criminal must be freed and before which he is usually released early (such as because of COVID), I would suggest a minimum period before re-evaluating for release, with no maximum. This way, as long as the convict remains dangerous, he can be kept behind bars, even for life, and the periodic reevaluations provide a constant motivation for prisoners to build a different future for themselves though faith-based, college and vocational, and other evidence-based recidivism reduction programs.
It is also essential to find some way to impress judges with the seriousness of early release, like mandatory reinstitution of all rights upon release, including firearms rights (because those paper restrictions didn’t really work anyway).