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The Root of DC’s Gun Problem?

by Prince Of Petworth November 13, 2008 at 11:00 am 51 Comments

IMG00035, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Ok maybe I’m obsessing a bit now but I think Odentex’s comment yesterday from the Ombudsman’s post is worth exploring:

The problem in DC is that these disputes get settled with guns partly because having a gun in DC will get you no more than a slap on the wrist. We can moan on and on about MPD (and I’m not saying we shouldn’t, they don’t seem to give a flip about patrolling this neighborhood), but until the price of pool goes up with regards to carrying a firearm in this city, a lot of disputes that would otherwise result in a bunch of yelling, or an occasional beating, will instead result in stray bullets coming into peoples houses.

With the Heller Supreme Court case in the news a few months back there was a lot of lamentation about how this would effect the “ban” and no little editorializing in the WaPo about the end of the world, as if it matters a jot to the person carrying an illegal gun in DC what the law is when they know they’ll never spend a day in jail if caught with a gun. The city could go a long way towards curtailing this by simply instituting reasonable sentences for gun possession.

Currently, a 1st time offense is considered a misdemeanor petty offense with a possible maximum punishment of 12 months in jail, but nearly all first offenders go free with time served (a day or two) or probation. This is similar to a lot of states, and frankly, I don’t have too much trouble with the first offender (assuming they are really a first offender) getting probation. Virginia, that bastion of strict gun control, has a similar punishment for first offenders. What I would like to see is probation terms handed with violators of probation for gun offenses facing a mandatory 90 days in DC jail if they screw up. It sends a signal, but it also acknowledges that everyone gets one chance to shape up.

Where the DC code, and DC government from Fenty on down, has failed the citizens of DC in a deadly way is how gun crime for repeat offenders is handled. Or should I say, not handled. The punishment handed out for repeat offenders, people who have been caught with an illegal weapon at least once before, is, according to DC government, on average less than ZERO months in jail.

http://scdc.dc.gov/acs/frames.asp?doc=/acs/lib/acs/pdf/2006_chapter2.pdf

What? “How can that be?” you’re saying? I’m not entirely sure myself, but if you look at page 6 of the 2006 Report of the DC Sentencing Commission (their ’07 report is missing, and their ’08 report is suspiciously void of any data on sentences), you’ll see in Figure 2-2 that not only do felony gun offenders get below “0” months in prison, the sentences gun offenders receive are lower that “property” crimes and drug offenses.

So, between 200-300 serious gun offenders ostensibly get probationary sentences or time served for repeat felony instances of illegally carrying guns. There is no enhancement for having your third or subsequent felony possession, and even if the judge has a particularly bad hair day the maximum allowed by statute is 5 years. However, even though DC government is careful not to produce the raw data on these sentences, we can see that if the average is below zero months in prison, and there are usually less than 300 cases, there isn’t anyone (or hardly anyone) getting the max.

This is pathetic situation. There needs to be a mandatory sentence for repeat gun offenders in this city. 2nd offense should merit a minimum of 1 year in prison. This would make an impact. Time served and a revolving door don’t.

I would like to go to this meeting on Thursday, but I probably cannot attend. So, I hope that someone might mention this to the city fathers when they start wringing their hands about how they can’t do nothin’ about this.

Again, in Virginia, where carrying a gun is almost as important as loving Baby Jesus, second offenders get 1-5, and a third offense will get you up to ten. When Virginia has tougher gun laws than you, you know that you are fucked.

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