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Playing with guns

And while I'm on the subject of writing my own laws, I thought I'd toss out an idea I had a few years ago that might cut down on violent crime.

I think we ought to have a sliding-scale law that covers the use of guns in crime. The basic idea is that using a gun in a crime will cost you more time behind bars, and the more aggressively you use it, the more it will cost you. This law will only be in addition to other charges, of course -- it requires some additional charge to work.

The numbers I was working with were as follows:

Possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony: +1 year
Display of a firearm: +2 years
Aiming a firearm at a person: +3 years
Discharging a firearm: +3 years
Firing at a person: +5 years
Wounding a person: +10 years (per person)
Killing a person: Life or death (depending on the state)

Now, I think these should be state laws, not federal laws -- the federal government has enough to worry about, and this is exactly the kind of matter that should be left up to the states. But I think this law (if it's actually enforced, unlike Massachusetts' Bartley-Fox law, which is almost never prosecuted) would give criminals an incentive to "tone it down" a bit and, maybe, even save a few lives.

J.


Comments (23)

Makes sense to me. I agree ... (Below threshold)
Remy Logan:

Makes sense to me. I agree with the state level thing too. The Feds should be making very few criminal laws. Which brings up another point - mandatory sentencing.

Mandotry sentences were instituted when judges started going against the wishes of law-abiding citiezens. I think it was a bad solution to a bad problem. I feel that there needs to be some way of allowing judges to cut back on the time in extreme circumstances, but not have the authority to be willy-nilly about it.

I'd rather we stop demonizi... (Below threshold)
Scott R. Keszler:

I'd rather we stop demonizing inanimate hunks of metal.

Is it really worse to wound someone with a bullet vs a knife, or a baseball bat? Is threatening someone by aiming a gun at them worse than threatening to to bludgeon them with a tire iron?

How about we just criminalize threatening, attacking, battering, assaulting, wounding, and killing someone (other than in defense of self or other).

Increase the penalties for the above? Sure. Release non-violent criminals to make room for violent one (a reversal of the current policy...)? Definately.

Demonize one type of tool over others? Silly.

I'd rather we stop demonizi... (Below threshold)
Scott R. Keszler:

I'd rather we stop demonizing inanimate hunks of metal.

Is it really worse to wound someone with a bullet vs a knife, or a baseball bat? Is threatening someone by aiming a gun at them worse than threatening to to bludgeon them with a tire iron?

How about we just criminalize threatening, attacking, battering, assaulting, wounding, and killing someone (other than in defense of self or other).

Increase the penalties for the above? Sure. Release non-violent criminals to make room for violent one (a reversal of the current policy...)? Definately.

Demonize one type of tool over others? Silly.

I was under the impression ... (Below threshold)
ACE:

I was under the impression many states already had such laws. If I'm not mistaken, using a gun to threaten another person, when you're not in fear of harm, will get one in a world of legal trouble (criminal and civil). I sometimes carry a gun (legally), but have thus far never had the need to show it. If I expose it, it will be to use it ASAP for self defense.

If I'm not mistaken, use of a gun in a robbery is an automatic felony offense with mandatory min. sentence in most states. If one is just driving the getaway car in a robbery in which someone is shot, he's in about as much trouble as the shooter. And, a dealer who knowingly sells a gun to a felon who later uses it illegally just may get sued out of store and home, as one recently did (a $800K settlement against the dealer, as I recall).

Agree that these should be state laws. The Federal Gov. should deal with the use of guns in interstate crimes, like serial robbers/killers who work a number of states.

Agree with Scott that the problem is the action of a person, not the weapon he chooses. The harm is the physical damage to another, whether it is done via a gun, a kitchen knife, a hammer, or antifreeze (as a woman in GA used to kill TWO men).

If we outlawed every "weapon" by which one can be hurt, we'd have to outlaw hands. Like Archie on "All in the Family" said when his daughter was wishing for more gun laws: "People get pushed out of windows, little girl. Should we outlaw windows?"

If a person abuses his 2nd Amendment right to misuse a firearm, I'm all for throwing the book at him. Release those in jail for personal drug use to make room for them.

In Florida, we have such a ... (Below threshold)
K-dawg:

In Florida, we have such a law: "10-20-life."

If you use a gun during a crime, it's 10 years.
If you fire a gun during a crime, it's 20 years.
If you shoot someone, whether they live or die, it's life.

http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/10-20-life/

Scott has the point Ive be... (Below threshold)
Richard:

Scott has the point Ive been yelling for years. Really, why outlaw guns they did not kill anyone, outlaw the bullets, they are the ones that actually did the killing?!?

That's stupid logic and one that tries to cover the effect instead of fixing the problem. If we actually enforced current laws, many of the criminals would remain in jail and thus could not commit more crimes as over 70% of crimes are committed by repeat offenders.

If we need more jails, build huge ones in the dessert and let the States pay per person to have them there. Place non violent criminals in local jails and violent or life sentence criminals in the desert jails away from civilized people.

I very much believe in keeping out of jails such civilized rights as weight rooms, recreation centers, libraries, and entertainment. They are criminals that gave up their rights in the act of taking the rights of others away. For those bleeding hearts, reserve strict provisions as these for the desert jail. Im tired of hearing that criminals are getting stronger, faster, smarter while in jail. This is stupid and anti productive and has no ill effect on the constitution.

Once people see that we are tough and stand by what we say and not have the maximum be a life sentence only to plea down to 10 years, just to get out in 5!!! How is this paying for your crime, or more effectively, keeping you off the street so you cant commit more crimes?

-Simple assault/theft or property damage, drug use and non driving alcohol charges would be 2 years minimum local
-Assault third degree (closed fist) or theft (non petty but not grand) drunk driving would be 3 years minimum local.
-Fraud, embezzlement affecting one or many peoples finances would receive 5 years minimum plus one month per individual affected served locally.
-Battery (beating someone instead of just hitting them) and grand theft or robbery and the intent to sell or distribute drugs would be 5 years minimum local on first offence while consecutive offenses would be served in the desert jail.
Murder (first degree) receives 5-10 years served locally.

-Any attempt either directly or indirectly to take or threaten ones life while committing the crime could add up to double the sentence on the above crimes while also stating that repeat offenders may serve time in the desert jail.

-With each repeat offence you double the time until the third strike is reached in which you serve life at the desert jail.

-Debilitating injury, kidnapping, terrorist style violence not resulting in death, receives a minimum of 10 years and up to 20 in the desert jail and NO PAROLE.
-Rape, murder (second or third degree), treason, child pornography, or any sexual assault on children serves life sentences WITHOUT parole in the desert jail.

I wont take the time to go into each and every crime, but the framework here is what is important. Have this list posted in the court houses, jails, post offices, schools, libraries, and with its enforcement you will see a drastic reduction in crime.

Just like the terrorist we are fighting today, if they understand you are serious and will follow through with what you say, what you say will have more effect. This also works with children as they learn quickly that dad might say one thing, but does another. When my mom said put your toys away or Im putting them in the trash, she meant it and I learned this the hard way. However, every time my mom told me to put my toys away, it was done THEN! If we were acting up in the store my mom had no hesitation on stopping the trip short and taking us home where we faced whatever relevant punishments there was. Eventually the fear of mom disappeared and we all just learned quickly to do what she said. We respected her.

1) Decide a course of action you are willing to follow through on. Dont make empty threats or promises.
2) Articulate that course plainly and clearly; explaining what consequences would follow. Reminders of past incidents are great.
3) Have constant reminders so no one forgets or says I was never told. Like posting crime vs punishment charts as stated above. My mom would drill us every time we went to a restaurant as to how to act and what would happen if we did no. it got to be funny as we could repeat it ourselves line by line, but we never dared to act outside those provisions.
4) Once an action is committed that requires said course of action to take place, it must quickly, decisively, and to the degree in which you stated without fail be followed through.

If not you will have kids and criminals that dont respect parents or the law. Sound familiar?

Richard

Richard - it sounds like th... (Below threshold)
Scott R. Keszler:

Richard - it sounds like the History and Moral Philosophy class in Heinlein's Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie that claims to be based on the book).

The scene is reproduced here: History and Moral Philosophy

Agree, most states already ... (Below threshold)
MD:

Agree, most states already have such laws, which either enhance the offense and/or the penalty based on the use of a gun in a crime.

Also note, in a conspiracy, if one person uses a gun, all members of the conspiracy are subject to the enhanced penalties; therefore, a getaway driver in an armed robbery is subject to enhanced penalties, even if he never wielded a weapon. The getaway driver can also be put away for murder, if his co-conspirator kills someone. Choose your friends carefully.

Also. agree the mere presentation of a gun is a crime, if the other people present reasonably believe the gun may be used against them; this is true, even if the gun is unloaded. It's called "assault" in the common law, and applies to any weapon, not just guns. A raised fist can lead to a charge of assault. An actual physical strike is "battery." The details on such things vary by state.

How about laws encouraging ... (Below threshold)
Michael Angier:

How about laws encouraging law-abiding citizens to be trained and carry defensive firearms. The criminal elements would be less likely to attempt such acts if they knew there was a good chance that someone in the area of the crime would be able to react and stop the criminal. This could also have the effect of reducing court backlogs and prison expenditures since the criminal would be less likely to survive to require those institutions of the justice system.

State not Federal laws. Hm... (Below threshold)
OCBill:

State not Federal laws. Hmmm, let me think. I know, let's tie the Federal Highway trust funds to compliance. That way, we get a Federal implementation at the state level. [this is a joke]. Google the "Price of Free Corn" and read on.

- This sort of approach is... (Below threshold)
Hunter:

- This sort of approach is already in place in several states and there is a federal statute, the Brady law, which was enacted after the crippling of the senator who was with Reagan and badly injured by stray bullets intended for the President....

- The problem with all such de-incentifying legislation of this sort is it seeks to appeal to a persons mentality and sense of self preservation, neither of which one tends to find in people who will:

- a) Commit crimes of any nature in the first place...

- b) See a) above.....

- You can't effectively deture someone totally devoid of morals or scare someone who is fearlessly stupid...

This has already been done ... (Below threshold)
Carl:

This has already been done in several states. The NRA tried to get these laws inacted years ago and succeeded in some states and were laughed out of others by the liberals. The states that do have them don't enforce them. They need to be mandantory ( a condition that the NRA tried to get passed also).

But, but.... WHERE are page... (Below threshold)
pkok:

But, but.... WHERE are pages 2 thru 2,117?!

Obviously, such a short plan could never work.

Besides, do you want to put a third of the population out of work?

Such a set of laws exist i... (Below threshold)
Steel Turman:

Such a set of laws exist in ... READY? California.

Have a gun = 5 years

Show a gun = 10 years

Use a gun = 25 years

all tacked on to whatever sentence you are convicted of. ( I might be a bit off on the numbers)
But I am real close.

Personally, I believe that ... (Below threshold)
Cz:

Personally, I believe that if a gun is proven to have been unloaded during the commission of a crime then the risk element associated with having a gun is not the same as a loaded gun, i.e. no chance of accidental or purposeful shooting.

If a person uses an unloaded gun during a crime as a threat, that should not result in any penalty beyond the nature of the crime itself.

The criminal code is so lengthy, detailed and convoluted today, that it can be used unfairly by prosecutiors when they elect to. Why should one crime, e.g. robbery of a convenience store, actually result in 6-10 violations of the criminal code? (e.g. having a gun, fleeing the crime scene, evading police, possession of stolen goods, etc.) I'm not sure if you can actyually commit a crime and violate only one specific statuate.

I am a strong proponent of a complete review of the criminal code with the goal of major simplification with the target being that an average person can actually read the document and clearly understand what constitutes a crime and what penalty is typically associated with the commission of that crime.

Interesting example. Did you know that burning tree branches in a metal garbage can is OK in your own yard but considered felony arson (in Calif) if you're a couple of feet off your property line, like in a utility right-of-way? Would they prosecute? Unlikely, but it's still an option from the Criminal code perspective.

If a person uses an unlo... (Below threshold)

If a person uses an unloaded gun during a crime as a threat, that should not result in any penalty beyond the nature of the crime itself.

Wrong. "Threat" has two elements -- one is actual, but another is perceived. If by displaying an unloaded gun a criminal succeeds in securing cooperation from someone who might have resisted had the gun not been displayed (or the victim known it was unloaded) the result is EXACTLY the same as if the gun were loaded.

Ergo, the penalty should not depend on whether the gun was loaded, a matter of actual threat, but on whether the victim perceived a threat and acted accordingly. This is also known as a "reasonable person" test, and Cz's view fails it.

Wonder why?

RE: Hunter's conclusion, "Y... (Below threshold)
Remy Logan:

RE: Hunter's conclusion, "You can't effectively deture[sic] someone totally devoid of morals or scare someone who is fearlessly stupid..."

This line of reasoning only supports the notion that we need to lock "them" up and throw away the key. It is also a sound basis for creating a program that identifies people without morals and locking them away before they have the chance to kill someone. After all, if it saves the life of one child...

Guns and cartridges ... (Below threshold)
jack rudd:


Guns and cartridges are merely inanimate objects, which should not be demonized or banned. The cuplrits are the fingers that pull the triggers. It makes more sense to ban fingers than to ban guns.

Whatever fingers one uses to commit a crime should be confiscated.

Ergo, the penalty should... (Below threshold)
Cz:

Ergo, the penalty should not depend on whether the gun was loaded, a matter of actual threat, but on whether the victim perceived a threat and acted accordingly.

But based on this argument, what difference does it then make whether one brandishes a gun or a machete?

Wouldn't any item that was considered a weapon, e.g. ball bat, knife, mace, etc., be "perceived" as potentially being used to seriously injure and therefore cause one to act accordingly vs resisting?

If so, then why change penalties for using a gun?

I know this is not on the s... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

I know this is not on the same track but yesterday while listening to the commentators during the Nascar race (I go back and forth on commercials from golf to nascar on Sats and Suns - the only worthwhile days of the week) one of them was talking about a race so and so was watching and the power went out so he didn't get to see the race and he shot the tv. I had to laugh because at the same time he said that, I said "figures, southerners!" Sorry, I just had to interject something funny here.
~C

Why should someone receive ... (Below threshold)

Why should someone receive less time in jail for shooting someone if they miss? Why is attempted murder treated any less than actual murder? We jail people because they are a threat to others in society. Are we supposed to cut them a break simply because the victim survived the shot in the stomach?

Playing with guns.... hmm p... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Playing with guns.... hmm playing with gunfire - that reminds me, when is the vice presidential debate and are you going to write about it? Oh, please do!!
~C

PS Kerry and Bush are dead heat - do not understand that at all but please don't shoot the messenger, Jay, do shoot the damn message.
~C

possession of an unregister... (Below threshold)
TrueLiberal:

possession of an unregistered hand gun in the State of MA is a manditory 1 year sentance. However my understanding is that a Pol's Son was one of the first caught so they just dropped his charge to a lesser weapon violation so he did not have to go to jail. It is in not enforcing the laws we have that is the problem, not the need to make additional laws.




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