Sacramento, CA - The governor of California recently signed a bill into law that allows judges to reduce sentences in felony convictions involving a firearm.
Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 620 into law on October 11, giving judges the option to use their own discretion on felony firearms sentencings.
The bill was sponsored by the ACLU of California, and changed previously mandated firearm sentence enhancements.
Prosecutors and law enforcement officials were totally confused by this move from the same legislature that enacted some of the toughest gun control laws in the United States, according to YourCentralValley.com.
Current law prohibited judges from striking or dismissing a firearm enhancement.
The new law will allow California judges to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a 10-year, 20-year, or life-term extension is justified.
"They're going to turn around and tell the criminals who are actually using firearms, who are actually using firearms to commit crimes, oh, we think you are getting too much of a punishment. This needs to be lessened," Fresno County Assistant District Attorney Blake Gunderson said.
The bill’s sponsor, California State Senator Steven Bradford, said in a press release that reduced sentencing measures “will save lives, instead of throwing them away.”
“Far too many people of color are disproportionately impacted by our state’s overly punitive sentencing laws, which tie the hands of our judges,” Bradford said in the release.
Lizzie Buchanan, ACLA Legislative Advocate, supported the bill, and blamed firearm sentencing enhancements for “mass incarceration, failure to deter crimes, and disproportionately ensnared people of color.”
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said state lawmakers aren't understanding what this will do to communities.
"Why are we seeing 400 shootings in the City of Fresno this year as compared to what we had last year? And it's because we have a weakening of the criminal justice system because certain individuals are creating laws in the State of California because they are out of touch with local communities," Chief Dyer said.
"I have not had one legislator in the State of California [ask] about this piece of legislation, or any other for that matter," Chief Dyer said.
Senator Bradford said that judges should have the same discretion with sentencing as prosecutors have with filing charges.
California judges currently have discretion to dismiss other sentencing enhancements at a defendant’s sentencing or resentencing, but the mandatory firearm enhancements have been the exception.
According to Bradford, SB 620 gives judges the ability to look at a case on an individual basis and make sure the punishment fits the crime.
He said reforms will impact families throughout the state, and “will save lives instead of throwing them away.”
The Mercury News questioned the “logic” of Gov. Brown signing SB 620, in a column by Dan Walter, criticizing the "blizzard of legislation making private gun ownership more difficult and expensive."
“Assembly Bill 424, by Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, removes the power of local school authorities to allow someone to legally carry a gun on school grounds.
It’s aimed at a tiny number of schools where teachers with training and valid concealed-weapons permits have been allowed to carry guns, so that they can protect their students in the horrific event of a school shooting incident.
With the new law, any deranged person bent on slaughtering children will now know for certain there will be no armed resistance inside school grounds.
While we ponder the logic of AB 424, we should consider another bill Brown signed, Senate Bill 620 by Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Gardena.
It repeals the long-standing Penal Code section that requires extra years behind bars for anyone using a gun to commit a crime and leaves such “enhancements” to the future discretion of judges.
So on one hand Brown and the Legislature make it more difficult for a teacher to protect children against gun-wielding criminals, while on the other they reduce potential penalties for gun-wielding criminals.
What do you think of California reducing penalties for firearms offenders, at the same time they're passing more restrictive gun control legislation? Does it make any sense to you? We'd like to hear from you. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.