19-year old who shot at car with kids inside walks away with probation

19-year old who shot at car with kids inside walks away with probation
AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

Minnesota Democrats, like their anti-gun counterparts across the country, have been vocal about their desire to impose new gun control laws on law-abiding gun owners, but those same politicians fall silent when it comes to the soft-on-crime policies that are helping to drive up crime rates in the state’s largest cities.

Take the recent case of 19-year old Jacob Gunn, who was charged with multiple felonies last year after allegedly shooting at a car with two adults and two children inside on a busy St. Paul street. Thankfully no one was injured, but that was due more to luck and happenstance than any action on Gunn’s part.

Prosecutors had plenty of evidence to work with, including eyewitness accounts and DNA evidence, but they chose instead to offer Gunn a plea deal, and this week the young offender learned the consequences of his serious crime: probation and a chance to wipe his felony conviction off his criminal record.

A Ramsey County Attorney’s Office spokesman in a statement said in part that the victim’s boyfriend — who was with her in the red Denali — died as they were preparing for trial.

“Due to the lack of witnesses, we reached an agreement with Mr. Gunn to secure a plea of guilty to Count 2, with a stay of execution — a felony conviction and probation without prison time,” the statement reads.

And when it came time to being sentenced last Friday, Judge Joy Bartscher went even more lenient than plea agreement called for.

According to the sentencing order, Gunn will serve 120 days of house arrest with work release. Judge Bartscher gave him a stay of imposition for his sentence, which means if he successfully completes four years of probation, his felony assault with a deadly weapon for shooting a car with kids inside will be reduced to a misdemeanor.

I understand that the death of an eyewitness may have impacted the prosecution’s case, but they still should have been able to secure the testimony of the woman who was driving with her kids in the back seat.

Additionally, police had recovered a pistol from Gunn’s car within minutes of the shooting being reported, and were able to match the rounds still inside the gun to shell casings discovered at the scene. They also had Gunn’s DNA one of those spent rounds, which also tied him to the scene of the crime.

Despite all that, prosecutors chose to give Gunn a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, and the judge went even further by allowing him to reduce that felony on his record to a misdemeanor if he successfully manages to complete his term of probation.

Rather than raising hell about plea deals like this, Democrats in Minnesota are still looking at ways to impose new restrictions on responsible gun owners.

“It’s beyond unacceptable and we simply cannot allow it to continue, not here in Minnesota, not anywhere in our country,” said Senate Minority Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen, DFL-Edina. “Our Republican colleagues are more interesting in banning books in schools than guns in schools.”

Federally-licensed firearm dealers are required to conduct a background check on the person seeking to purchase a weapon, but there are no background checks if someone is gifting or loaning a gun, or the transfer of privately-owned firearms. The legislation DFL lawmakers are proposing expands background checks to these transfers.

They also are looking to pass a so-called “red flag” law, which would allow the courts to confiscate a person’s firearms if deemed a harm to themselves or others. A similar law is being discussed in Congress. A total of 19 states have measures in place like this, according to research from Everytown for Gun Safety.

A recent CBS News poll shows there is broad support among Americans for these policies.

“We need more than platitudes and talking points,” said. Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park. “We need action.”

What they need to do is pull their heads out of their rear ends and pay attention to what’s actually driving violent crime. Police in Minneapolis and St. Paul are actually aiming in the right direction, but if prosecutors and judges are willing to give violent criminals a pass, as was the case with young Mr. Gunn, then making more arrests won’t make much of a difference.

When shooting at a car full of people leads to probation instead of prison time, the idea that the way to cut violence is by creating new possessory crimes aimed at legal gun owners isn’t just idiotic and unconstitutional, it’s downright dangerous. Unfortunately, it’s clear that the agenda of anti-gun Democrats is fundamentally about reducing the number of legal gun owners, not reducing the number of dangerous and violent offenders on the street.