Per federal law, convicted felons aren’t allowed to have a firearm. They can’t buy one, they can’t build one, they can’t even be legally gifted one. Under no circumstances can they possess a firearm lawfully. Hell, they can’t even pick one up they find on the side of the road to move it lawfully.
Unfortunately, criminals have plenty of ways to get guns regardless of the law. Reformed felons won’t pursue those means, but the unrepentant felon sure as hell will. They’ll get a gun and then they’ll use to commit still more crimes.
Now, the state of Louisiana is looking to try and fight that by raising penalties for those who are caught with such weapons.
A Senate committee voted 4-1 Tuesday to forward a bill that would designate possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a felony as a crime of violence.
Currently, the minimum sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is 5 years. Changing the possession of a firearm by a felon to a crime of violence would ensure harsher penalties, such as lengthier jail sentences.
Mike Ronats, executive director of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, cited statistics showing that between 25% and 48% of murders involving firearms are committed by felons.
“The decision that we make today is not just about this crime,” Ronats told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary C. He added: “It’s about how that crime affects the other crime, the larger picture, and that being homicide.”
Sheriff Mike Tregg of St. John the Baptist Parish is also a proponent of the bill, which was proposed by Sen. Bodi White, R-Baton Rouge.
“I have too many young men dying,” Tregg said. “I intercept their social media. They’re fascinated with guns. Children, 15 years old. I’m only here today to ask you guys to strengthen what we’re doing so we can send a message before they commit that crime.”
The idea is that by leveling stiffer penalties, some convicted felons might become dissuaded from carrying guns. Alternatively, those inclined to carry guns would spend longer in prison, thus keeping them off the streets.
However, my question is, do these longer sentences actually work? I mean, is there any evidence that really shows across the board that increasing the penalties for convicted felons possessing firearms actually reduces crime in the long run?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with locking criminals up for longer. In and of itself, that’s fine. I’ll never really object to criminals being off our streets, especially the violent ones.
The problem is that these measures are usually the extent of what many officials want to undertake. While I’m thankful that we’re not looking at laws that seek to disarm law-abiding citizens, the truth of the matter is that violent criminals aren’t likely to be dissuaded by longer sentences. Let’s face it, if they could make good decisions based on what would be in their best interests, they wouldn’t be criminals in the first place, now would they?
Longer sentences are fine, but it can’t be the only effort put forth by lawmakers. If you want to reduce violent crime rates, you have to do more than that.