|Posted:||April 8, 2021 01:05 PM|
|From:||Representative Todd Stephens|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Holding Violent Criminals Who Use Guns Accountable|
|The criminal use of firearms by violent offenders is a significant issue that demands our attention. In Philadelphia, the violent crime rate is at its highest in decades and shows no signs of dissipating. Last year, the city recorded an astounding 499 firearms homicides and more than 2200 nonfatal shootings and is now on pace to far surpass that figure in 2021 with 132 homicides – a 35% increase from this time last year and more than 500 people shot as of April 8th. This senseless loss of life must end, and we must undertake a concerted effort to address the rise in violent crime.
A recent news report quoting Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw explained that the “Philadelphia criminal justice system has become a ‘revolving door’ for repeat gun offenders — leaving more of them on the street with their weapons, with little reason to fear the consequences of being caught.” This statement is supported by the data. According to the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, an overwhelming majority of sentences for violent criminals who use firearms in Philadelphia are below the Commission’s recommended sentencing guidelines.
But this is not just a Philadelphia issue. Crime in Philadelphia affects surrounding counties as well. Gun violence in other counties is a real problem too. While the circumstances and dynamics may be different, they all require a thoughtful and effective response.
Accordingly, I am introducing legislation making our sentencing guidelines presumptive for certain offenses and requiring courts to state, on the record, a substantial and compelling reason that an injustice would occur by imposing a sentence below the standard range of the sentencing guidelines. This provision would apply to the following offenses: (1) a violent offense, when a firearm was possessed by the defendant during the commission of the offense; (2) drug trafficking if the defendant possessed the firearm during the commission of the offense; and (3) the unlawful possession of a firearm if the person is not allowed to possess a firearm because he or she has been previously convicted of a serious crime.
Please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation to better protect our Commonwealth’s residents.
Introduced as HB1590