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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: February 14, 2013 04:35 PM
From: Senator Lawrence M. Farnese, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Mandatory minimum for illegal carry of a firearm in Philadelphia
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that would create a mandatory minimum sentence for illegally carrying a firearm in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, in an effort to reduce violence crime in the city, has examined measures in other large cities with high violent crime rates that have effectively reduced murders and shootings, one such city being New York City.

Seven years ago, New York City enacted a mandatory three and a half (3.5) year sentence for anyone convicted of illegally carrying a loaded firearm. Since the passage of this stiffer mandatory minimum sentence, violent crime in NYC has fallen significantly. For example, in 2012, murders in NYC fell by more than one hundred to 418 from 515 in 2011. This was their lowest number of murders in forty (40) years, with shootings falling to their lowest level in 18 years. While the mandatory minimum enactment is not the only factor contributing to the drop in violent crime in the city, it is a large factor and one we should not look over in Philadelphia.

My legislation would specifically increase the grading for illegal carrying of a firearm in Philadelphia under Title 18, Section 6108 to a third (3rd) degree felony and add a mandatory minimum sentence of at least two (2) years total confinement. Current law grades this offense as a misdemeanor. Persons in violation of this section will not be eligible for parole, probation, work release or furlough. The sentencing court will not have the authority to impose a lesser sentence or to place the offender on probation or to grant a suspended sentence. They are not, however, prohibited from imposing a greater sentence.

The language also puts the burden on the Commonwealth to prove that the possessor of the firearm is not the lawful owner. This language is necessary for several reasons, including where travelers from other counties have entered Philadelphia via automobile and get pulled over with a firearm in their car.

Better enforcement of our gun laws leads to a reduction in gun-related offenses, as we can see from the NYC example. I urge you to join me in co-sponsoring this important public safety measure that will adequately punish illegal gun carriers and deter future offenses.

Introduced as SB801