Schenectady Councilwoman Calls For 10-Year Sentence For Gun Possession

AP Photo/Wilson Ring

Criminal gun possession can be a real problem. However, that isn’t automatic, especially in places where it’s virtually impossible for law-abiding citizens to carry a gun lawfully. Many will figure it’s better to break one law and be able to protect themselves than to follow the law and end up murdered for their trouble.

The only “better to be tried by 12 than carried by six” thing.

However, a city councilwoman in Schenectady, New York has other thoughts. In fact, she thinks the mandatory minimum sentence for it should be steep.

A member of the City Council wants to up the state minimum for a firearm charge to 10 years as a means of thwarting gun violence in the city and beyond.

Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas pitched the idea during Monday night’s meeting, asking colleagues to join her in drafting a resolution to the state legislature.

A person convicted of a firearm charge in New York faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 3-1/2 years,  with a maximum of 15 years if the person doesn’t have a prior felony conviction.

“We need to send a message to anyone thinking of committing heinous crimes within the city, and these violent acts need to be addressed,” Zalewski-Wildzunas said.

“Gun violence has gotten out of control,” Zalewski-Wildzunas said. “A person who carries an illegal gun is not someone who has made a mistake. They have been in the business of crime for quite a while.”

Not necessarily. Especially not in a state like New York where being able to get a permit is such a hit or miss proposition that the matter is now before the Supreme Court.

Frankly, if I was concerned about my safety, it’s unlikely I’d worry about whether I had a permit or not. Leveling a 10-year sentence on such a person isn’t going to make the streets any safer.

Unfortunately, Zalewski-Wildzunas doesn’t get that. She’s likely one of many who think that anyone who really needs a permit can get one. Hell, in Schenectady, she might be right. I honestly have no way of knowing.

The problem is that such a proposal won’t be limited to Schenectady. No, it’ll cover the entire state, a state which currently doesn’t generally accept “self-defense” as a valid reason to possess a handgun.

If there’s a saving grace, it’s that Zalewski-Wildzunas can’t really do more than offer up a resolution. She isn’t in a position to even offer up a bill that might be enacted.

However, I will give her credit for one thing. She does seem to at least get part of the problem with gun control:

The councilwoman said New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. However, most of them have been directed toward a purchase by a law-abiding citizen exercising his or her Second Amendment rights. 

“We all know the proliferation of illegal guns is the problem, and I believe it’s time we as lawmakers understand and address this underlying cause of gun violence in our streets,” she said. “There needs to be a zero-tolerance approach for an individual who uses a gun to intimidate, injure or murder another individual, period.”

Honestly, that’s something we can all get behind, even if I disagree with her 10-year sentence proposal. While I’m critical of Zalewski-Wildzunas’ proposal, I must acknowledge that she does seem to be trying to focus on the problem by going after the people who are causing the problems. The potential impact on others seems to be a legitimate mistake.

I suppose we have to give her credit for clearly being smarter than a lot of lawmakers in all levels of government, even if I disagree with her on this one. Who knows, if New York ends up with permitless carry for law-abiding citizens, I may well end up agreeing with her later.