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Democratic Lawmakers Seek To Do Away With Penalties For Using Guns In Crimes

Sacramento, CA – Imposing sentencing enhancements for criminals who are in possession of firearms at the time of their offenses is racist and the potential penalties currently in place need to be drastically reduced, according to a group of California Democratic lawmakers.

State lawmakers who backed the Anti-Racism Sentencing Reform Act claimed the current sentencing enhancement laws are racist because 89 percent of California inmates serving time on gun enhancement sentences are people of color, FOX News reported.

Offenders who are in possession of firearms during the commission of serious crimes such as attempted murder or robbery could face an additional 10 years in prison in addition to the underlying offense.

Firing a weapon during the commission of a crime carries a potential 20-year added sentence, and wounding a victim could tack on an additional 25 years to life, FOX News reported.

Proponents of the Anti-Racism Sentencing Reform Act sought to drop those enhancements to a maximum of just three years and to apply the law change retroactively to offenders who are currently incarcerated, The Post Millennial reported.

It also called for gun enhancements for certain lesser offenses to be dropped altogether, according to FOX News.

Initiate Justice Policy Manager Greg Fidell lamented the failed bill on May 20.

“AB 1509 was held in the Appropriations committee and will not move forward this year,” Fidell tweeted. “This is very painful – but we will be back stronger next year. I would like to apologize to all the families and currently incarcerated people who were counting on this. I’m sorry. Truly.”

The bill’s main sponsor, 25-year-old Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose), alleged current sentencing laws are too extreme, FOX News reported.

He said the measure was “about undoing failed policies of systemic racism in our justice system that have led to overincarceration.”

Lee, who touted himself as “the first Gen Z, youngest Asian American, and first bisexual state legislator in California history,” was living with his mother when he won the 2020 election, The Daily Wire reported.

The former part-time delivery service worker was backed by Bernie Sanders.

Lee praised “the over 370 incarcerated individuals who have written in support” of his now-failed proposal, The Daily Wire reported.

Activists seeking similar law changes in Illinois have called the gun enhancement practice “draconian, expensive, and racist,” according to FOX News.

“There’s ample research that long sentences don’t deter crime. It’s actually the swiftness and the surety of consequences that deters crime, not the length of the sentence,” claimed Restore Justice Executive Director Jobi Cates. “The length of the sentence just costs the state and communities and families hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars and destroys lives. It doesn’t make us safer. It’s a myth.”

Association of Deputy District Attorneys of Los Angeles County Vice President Eric Siddall said the bill would have “decriminalize[ed] the use of a firearm in California for the most severe, most violent felonies.”

“What this bill would do is encourage violent criminals to use guns during their crime because the penalty is so insignificant,” he added.

Criminal Justice Legal Foundation Legal Director Kent Scheidegger said gun enhancements were created to serve a purpose that has nothing to do with the criminal’s race.

“The reason they should be sentenced more severely is the use of the gun greatly increases the danger that someone’s actually going to be killed,” Scheidegger told FOX News. “Certainly, a longer sentence for a habitual criminal does improve public safety by preventing them from committing crimes during the time of the sentence.”

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, an estimated 40 percent of the state’s prison population is currently serving time for a sentence involving a firearm enhancement, The Daily Wire reported.

That equates to approximately 40,000 current inmates.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin

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